Music and Oppression

“Music and Oppression: Shaping Women’s Voices in Estonian Cultural Spaces“
by Dr. Sonja Strode (published 2015)

About the book...

Whilst tracing her father’s roots in Estonia, the author unexpectedly opened up a ‘Pandora’s Box’ full of ethnomusicological spaces. Some of her family were tragically separated in the 1940s: her aunt Maimu Mardi, a former music and drama student at the Tallinn Konservatoorium, eventually settled as a refugee in Denmark where her classical singing career flourished, yet she retained close links with Estonia and its people’s struggle for independence. Meanwhile, Ida-Mathilde Kalme, the author’s great-aunt, remained in Estonia, singing for many years with the Estonian National Opera. In this new book (published 2015) the author stitches the lives of these two classical singers into a long history of oppressive regimes, including Nazi-German and Soviet Occupations of their beloved Estonia.


Excerpts from ‘Music and Oppression’

Music can be an important integrating force, and a key component in one’s identity;... As history books, and my ethnographic research in the 1990s reveal, however, sometimes the way people use or perceive music can form part of processes of ‘othering’ and ‘distinction’ – sometimes unintentionally so. Like language, when oppressive forces arrive;... highly symbolic aspects of human identity such as music, can be quickly suppressed – symbolic in the sense that music can be taken as a representation of a people.”

“... through the cultural capital of music, associated resources and social networks, and the founding of an Estonian organisation – which subsequently grew worldwide – ... my aunt became an active agent, along with like–minded others... even though she resided outside Estonia’s borders...”

NOTE: Estonians have often been called the ‘singing nation’ and, for centuries, lovers of music festivals – a notable one being what has since been described as the ‘singing revolution’ of 1988. Further info about this festival – and others – is found in this book.

“ESTO Festivals began in 1972... my aunt was at that festival in Toronto... essentially political as much as cultural events. The year of their inception coincided with Tunne Kelam’s important memo, sent to the UN... for assistance to oust the Soviet Occupying Forces in Estonia... KGB surveillance was such that Kelam, previously a history graduate and senior researcher in the Central Archives in Tartu, lost his job at the Estonian Soviet Encyclopaedia in Tallinn.”

“And so in 2014 in Tallinn’s Song and Dance Festival I clapped... I sang... tears flowed... music became a human resource for me: one in which I was also in the mix along with my feelings... all part of the culture-agency dialectic, simultaneously questioning ethnocentric models of... lived reality and responses to and use of music.”

“The music, the singing at the Song and Dance Festival in Tallinn 1988 could soften the harsh, subordinate, powerless, material reality of the Estonian people’s world... offered them far more: an opening of the ‘gates’ to political freedom;... decide democratically for themselves...; an opportunity to enlarge their own DIY project.”

“In 1988... new kids were on the block... Classical, folk, and popular music were now the combined sonic ‘canons’ heard in Tallinn and beyond. Estonian young people were ripping apart stereotypes... expressing their political ‘voice’ in new ways, new musical style...”

Dr. Sonja Strode would like to thank the Museum of Occupations in Tallinn, Estonia whose books published by the Estonian Association of Illegally Repressed Persons MEMENTO have been an invaluable source of information about inhumane deportations (to Siberia especially), refugees, and other horrific and tragic aspects of the Occupations of Estonia in the 1940s and beyond.

Thanks also are acknowledged in her book to several key archive centres in Tallinn, as well as the Museum of Music and Drama, the Opera House, the National Library, and many others.

See also by
Dr. Sonja Strode...
Estonian flag
Music and Oppression by Dr Sonja Strode
Doctor Sonja Strode
Publisher: tuesdaybooks.co.uk

ISBN: 978–2–9540755–4–9
Paperback: £12.99

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