Mari Kalkun

Combining folk traditions with innovative songwriting, Mari Kalkun – a multiple award winner, singer, songwriter and instrumentalist – is one of the most forward-looking folk artists in Estonia today. Her lyrics – in Estonian and Võro language – delve into the relationship between humans and nature. “Mari’s singing is at the heart of things; joyous and lamenting by turns, but always poised and melodious.” (Neil Spencer, The Guardian).

A voice that seems to speak to us from the heart of the Estonian forest, Mari Kalkun’s music is at once of a place and deeply personal. Rooted in ancient Estonian and Võru traditions, and played on a variety of instruments including kannel and accordion, her music—for those of us with ears and hearts open—resonates deep within us to touch our spirits, our souls, even when the language is strange to us. Songs and musical arrangements that are sparse and stripped down allow emotions to surface, and the song breaths and reveals itself as something organic and real. Hers is an intimate music—born of Baltic winter forests and icy landscapes— and yet there is renewal, hope and celebration to be heard. Mari Kalkun’s music has a timeless quality and an unhurried sense of time and space.

Mari Kalkun has released six albums in Estonia, Europe and Japan. She has worked as a soloist in projects with acclaimed orchestras and choirs. Mari Kalkun has toured through Europe and Japan. Her full-length album “llmamõtsan” covering themes from the personal to the environmental to the deportations inflicted by the Soviet regime, received widespread coverage and recognition by international media. “Ilmamõtsan” was included in the Top 10 of best world albums of 2018 by The Guardian. Her latest creation, EP Apple Orchard Album, was released during unusual spring 2020. The limited handmade edition was decorated with blossoms from the artist’s garden and is one of the finest examples of the pandemic wave receiving heartfelt feedback from listeners and critics all over the world.

She has recently featured on international radio and TV stations such as BBC3, BBC4, BBC Scotland, J-Wave Tokyo, Osaka Radio, Scotland TV, and BBC Alba etc. In 2018 she received the Tallinn Music Week Artist Award. In 2019 she was granted the Music Award of Cultural Endowment of Estonia, which is the highest domestic recognition in the field of music. In 2021 Mari Kalkun was awarded as the Musician of the Year by Estonian Public Broadcasting.




This album absolutely deserves an award for the most charming cover of the year. The sleeve is greyish-pink, looks like it holds a perfume sample (apple blossom scent, of course), the infosheet on the other hand looks like the printed menu you may see at a wonderful dinner … all of this is a great joy even before we start to listen tot he music, and of course, the music is a great joy as well. Mari Kalkun, already known as a virtuoso on the kannel, the Estonian version of the kantele, here plays a piano inherited from her grandmother and a harmonium found in a recycling yard. She wrote most of the songs herself, she has a melodious style of singing, dreamlike, in a way, she makes Estonian sound like an incredibly romantic language. Titles like „Longing for home“ or „Prayer“ go perfectly along with Mari Kalkun’s slightly melancholical touch, and that her way of singing sometimes reminds of June Tabor is a very high praise indeed. Just one complaint: with only about 28 minutes the album is far too short!

Gabriele Haefs • • 03. 2021

It is a new reading of folklore that has in a sense passed through Béla Bartók and John Cage. Mari Kalkun is not only impressive by her creative energy, but also by her voice, which ranges from maternal depth to elf-like heights.

Jan Brachmann • SWR2 • 09. 2020

One of the finest examples of this pandemic wave yet is Mari Kalkun’s new collection of songs called “Õunaaia Album”, or „Apple Orchard Album”. For Mari Kalkun, the stripped-down sound would never be an obstacle. Contrary, “Õunaaia Album” is even more intimate than Mari’s earlier releases, and the lyrics – in Estonian and Võro language – delve into “the relationship between humans and nature”.

Beehype • 07. 2020

Gentle, dignified and utterly beautiful. As a singer, writer and instrumentalist, Kalkun is a musician whose work is a jewel in the crown of the rich Estonian scene.

Fiona Talkington • Songlines ★ ★ ★ ★ • 08. 2018

Kalkun’s singing is at the heart of things; joyous and lamenting by turns, but always poised and melodious, her poeticism apparent even without translation. A magical creation.

Neil Spencer • The Guardian ★ ★ ★ ★ • 07. 2018

Gorgeously intimate record. There’s nothing rushed about the music here. It unfolds gently, enfolding the listener, caressing and inviting and taking flight. Supremely honest music, joyful, dark, aching and smiling.

Chris Nickson • fRoots • 07. 2018