Live Report: Tallinn Music Week 2024

The Estonian capital resonates with energy...

As crowds descended on Estonia’s capital and the city prepared for the three nights of Tallinn Music Week, one objective settled amongst attendees; to explore the variety of culture lurking around its streets. Over the next three days, Tallinn would become a hotbed for global talent, hosting a range of performances, exhibitions and panels across venues in the city. With spirits high, it was evident how varied a crowd the festival had attracted. Residents of the city, industry trailblazers, and music-lovers from across the globe gathered in The Nordic Hotel Forum to collect programs and wristbands, filling its expanse with upbeat discussion of what was to come. Whether it was first time attendees, local residents or devoted international fans, the festival had plenty on offer for everyone. It was up to us to explore as much as possible, and immerse ourselves fully in its bliss.

Afrochill DJs. Photographer: Eva Pajusaar

The opening reception offered  a warm welcome to all in attendance and was followed by speeches from notable faces, such as the festival founders, trailblazers, and even an appearance from Estonia’s president President Alar Karis. After a quick moment to settle in, the long-awaited music programme officially commenced, with myriads of shows for festival goers to explore right from the start. Some began at the Africa NOW! night, where if lucky, they caught a glimpse of the Afrochill DJs set. Warming up audiences with a vibrant, seamless blend of Amapiano and Gqom, their dynamic kick off to the night set the festival’s vision alight, and clearly demonstrated the variety of creativity nestled within the city’s heart. 

Quickly they were followed by an enigmatic set from French-Senegalese artist Poundo, whose melding of beats and lyricism touching on the social-political world around us, created an energy that seemed to bounce across the venue the moment she set foot on the stage. Over the course of her set she remained quick and playful, explaining her background as an artist and asking the audience to join her in celebration, leading even the shyest of attendees to get up and dance along- a shining example of how to get a night started in style. 

Just a two minute walk away was the Keychange showcase focussed on highlighting some of Europe’s leading musical changemakers. Described by one attendee as ‘…like adornments in an art gallery’, one highlight in particular was the experimental electro-pop duo Vera Vice. Providing dissection of genre, harmony and audio-visual elements throughout their set, the experimental elements were seamlessly intertwined amongst hypnotic synth foundations, leaving audiences captivated by their ability to merge and encorporate styles at ease. When finished, crowds descended to the haze of venue smoking areas and into the beauty of Tallinn’s Old Town. Amongst its musical adornments the city seemed to shine with the excitement, a brightness that withstood, becoming almost palpable as the first night drew to a triumphant end. Festival goers made their way home with smiles on their faces, passing the various spaces that would display a new bout of music tomorrow.

Vera Vice. Photographer: Monica Mustjõgi

As Friday rolled into view, the day began early with the opening of the festival’s annual music conference, where panels and conversation from leading music industry professionals were held, giving valuable insight across a vast range of industry areas. The pearls of wisdom on offer across the conference were felt across the three days of festivities, with discussion amongst attendees often referencing, and even debating ideas picked up during their time in attendance. But as evening grew closer, the city slowly opened its venue doors once more, and quickly, the musical events of the evening got moving.

Over at the Folktronica stage, ‘TRAD.ATTACK!’ wowed crowds with their upbeat take on traditional folk, melding acestoral Estonian voices recordings and rock-tinged flair, that saw the crowd growing with every track played. Just a two minute walk away was a set by the notorious Night Tapes, who brought dream-pop mellowness in full force. Between their soundscapes of psych inspired synth-work, hazy laid-back guitars and carefully placed, complex vocals rhythms, the set proved irresistible to crowds. As the venue reached capacity near the beginning of the set, faces of attendees could be seen through the window, doing anything to try to glimpse their dream-like sound from the windows outside and get a peek of the action. 

Night Tapes. Photographer: Elena Mkrtchian @mkrtchnn

It was amongst the chaotic, joyful chatter, one recurring question pervaded the evening – ‘Have you heard of the venue where they put stickers on your phone camera?’ HALL, the venue in question, promised a mystery that beckoned crowds in until the very early hours of the morning. It was only upon entering, the venue’s hype could be truly understood. A warehouse made up of seemingly numerous rooms to descend and get lost in, HALL brought the electronic artists to the forefront. With phone cameras covered, there was nowhere to be but the present, where DJs such as Curses, Manfredas and Sofiia took the second night home with a range of dance, house and techno sets. Time flew by amongst the madness of early hours and night slowly descended into morning, where Sunday waited, with plenty more to discover. 

Saturday was the final day of the festivities and seemed by far the busiest – with numerous Tallinn residents emerging to join the action. The final night brought a showcase from Uus Laine with adventurous acts from across Europe delighting the audiences with a dynamic range of sets. The Estonian group ‘Karameel’ were one of the first to play, the retro-tinged and self described ‘dad sadness” led sound lighting up the venue, and slowly transforming the space to one reminiscent of a smokey karaoke lounge. Out on the streets was the Travelling Hedgehog City stage, a decadent, neon-lit sculpture of said animal, where acts like hyper-pop it girl MISS MOLLY, and the house tinged stylings of J Wax brought the festival euphoria to the general public, performing on the onlook of the harbour, where passers by could enjoy the fun. If you fancied something smoother, and notably warmer, you could head down to the Jazz stage, where a seated audience watched the astounding Kadri Voorand, who soothed a spellbound crowd with her eclectic jazz stylings and astonishing vocals. Whatever you desired, there was something to get lost in until the very end of the evening, where the festival said its farewells until next year. 

Kadri Voorand. Photographer: Kaarel Antonov

Looking back on the three whirlwind days, it’s striking to see how many different genres and styles of music fit so comfortably into Tallinn’s welcoming backdrop. From techno stompers, to reflective psych ambience, the festival’s ability to host genres across the board was an inspired, sensational experience, making festival goers from across the globe feel connected in more ways than a standard audience. True to its mission statement, Tallinn Music week’s contributions to the Estonian capital, to the artists it hosted, and to individuals who experienced the full force of its glory, were contributions that inspired a better tomorrow. A festival for discovery, community and creativity – Tallinn Music Week has it all.

Words: Lily Blakeney-Edwards 

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