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Throwback Thursday: Wandering with the Nomads of Estonia

Following initial success in the turn of the century, Estonia found itself in a bad way. After a win and a successive third place, the Baltic nation struggled to find Eurovision success. This culminated with one of the biggest disasters to grace the Eurovision stage: Leto Svet. A shambolic affair that undermined the credibility of Estonia being a player in the modern contest. Then along came Urban Symphony with Rändajad. I’m all too aware the word roughly translates to ‘Nomad’ or ‘Traveler’ – but in the Eurovision world I think it really means ‘Estonian game-changer’. 

This mystical song is undeniably one of Estonia’s strongest entries ever. The group won the Eesti Laul superfinal with one of the most convincing landslides, a shy 82% of the vote! In Moscow, the ladies from Urban Symphony led Estonia to its first qualification since the introduction of the semi-final format – but also the first top 10 placing since 2002. 

Urban Symphony’s performance in the final

The song showcases the sheer beauty of the Uralic linguistic family. I will not disclose the hours dedicated trying to pronounce the chorus of this song. Okay, the first two lines are easy. The third, however, made me sound like I was summoning spirits in a dark-sided ritual. Try for yourself: 

See on tee nad rändavad nii päevast päeva
See on tee nad rändavad siis ajast aega
See on tee ta nähtamatu rajana kulgeb
Nende ees ta ootab kui riskida julged

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Throughout the vast majority of the performance, the camera is in a state of movement, yet Sandra stays relatively static and  seems to avoid direct interaction with the camera. However, this almost clinical defiance of camera work lends itself to the intrigue of the songs message. Though subtle, the simple staging technique creates a sense of disconnect between Sandra and the audience. As constellations form on the stage, it is the audience who becomes the mysterious nomads moving from place to place. 

In the weeks after the contest, the hypnotic melody found its way in the top 5 iTunes in Finland, Norway and Sweden. Most curiously it also charted in Greece! It also marked the first song in Estonian to chart in the UK, Belgium and Switzerland.

What our other editors had to say:

Emanuel

Estonia was a power house in the 90’s and sent great songs during that time. Then managed to win the contest in 2001 with a very average song. Urban Symphony would have made a much better winner, even in 2009. Everything was on point: the song, the staging, the styling, the voices. The camera work was also amazing and make us feel that the stage was full. I also have to talk about the beauty of the Estonian language. They have achieved great results with their mother tongue and I’m sorry they aren’t using it lately. I was hoping to see Sandra in the Eurovision stage once again in 2014 but the Estonian public had other plans.

Alesia

Classic, catchy and chic. Let’s be real, the styling of this act is impeccable and it stands the test of time. Sure the main melody of the song is slightly reminiscent of the theme song from the 1998 film version of “The Mask of Zorro,” but that’s besides the point. Performed flawlessly, Estonia really did make a mark in 2009. Coming in at 6th place seems just about right to me. The symphony wasn’t really “urban,” but that probably worked to their advantage. The key takeaway here is that we could have seen this song represent a country last year in Lisbon. Again, the styling and performance don’t feel dated at all and that is a winning combination.

Tim

With its majestic intro, I found Randajad one of the best songs that entered the 2009 contest. With comparition to its studio version! I think that Urban Symphony did a great job in translating the magic the song had into the stage in Moscow. Even though the stage was big, the way they used camera angles and spaced themselves out on stage looked great on TV. I don’t know whether to say I prefer the Violin solo here or on Rybak’s performance… 

Jakob

It’s so ethereal and gorgeous. Incredibly beautiful, yet haunting.

What do you of Urban Symphony’s entry? Has “Rändajad” brought about a renaissance of Estonian success? Let us know below or on social media on @ESCXTRA. 

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