Editorials & OpinionFeaturesπŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ͺ Estonia

πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ͺ Slideback Sunday: Maarja-Liis Ilus sings about her “Forbidden land”

When I was assigned Estonia for “Slideback Sunday” I felt that I had so many options and great Estonian songs to choose from that I didn’t know where to start from. Estonia is undoubtetly one of my favorite countries in Eurovision and one of those that I am looking forward to every year.

I chose “Keelatud Maa” from 1997 because it’s one of those songs that have aged well and that I enjoy listening to til today, 23 years later. I remember clearly Eurovision 1997 from my teens, it’s one of my favorite Eurovision years ever with so many wonderful songs that have survived on their own, despite so many years having passed.

Maarja-Liis Ilus had competed for Estonia the year before and had achieved a respected 5th place in 1996, it was Estonia’s second attempt. So I was really excited what then 16 year old Maarja-Liis Ilus would come up with (solo this time).
“Keelatud Maa” (Forbidden Land, in English) is soft, atmosphearic and melodic ballad performed in Estonian.
The song starts slowly with a piano, and then is growing into a beautiful timeless ballad performed flawlessly by Maarja-Liis ilus.
It’s sung from the perspective of a woman whose lover is putting barriers in her way when it comes to their relationship. She compares this to being in a “forbidden land”, but tells him that it won’t remain so forever.

“Keelatud Maa” ended up in 8th place with 82 points in a field of 25 countries.

What do the others think?


This pick takes me to my favourite part about finding some old Eurovision entries, hearing some beautiful pop songs in their native language, and Estonian always sounds gorgeous, with Keelatud Maa being no exception. As good as it is to listen to though, I’m not sure in the context of an entire contest I’d remember this, especially with it sounding similar to other 90s entries musically, but in the 1997 lineup, it might stand a chance of being that one pop song that I fixate on for reasons a little beyond my comprehension. Lovely, pleasant song, deserved about what it got.


I first heard this song when Eurovision Again aired 1997 a few months ago. When I first heard it, it had this really good pop-vibe feeling to it. Now looking back at the results, I can see why it got the place that it did. It was a very simplistic song, her vocals matched well with the song, and she sold the song really well.


First off, I am a massive fan of the Estonian language, it’s so unique and it sounds wonderful musically to me. That doesn’t mean I love all songs in the language but “Keelatud Maa” is definitely one of those I really enjoy. This is easily one of my favourite Estonian entries at Eurovision, ticking many of my boxes. The instrumentation is to die for with all those strings and piano which I adore. Her vocals are spot on and while I do wish there would be a climatic note a bit earlier on, it just makes me so happy. The staging is simple yet effective, but I am left wondering how grandiose it could be if they had LEDs back then. While in 1997, my favourite is my country’s “Fiumi di Parole” I wished it had done better than 8th, although it is definitely a great placing.


I think Keelatud Maa is timeless but not in a perfect way as for example Amar Pelos Dois. It’s not bad but from the structure of song I can feel that the writers of this wanted it to be an Eurovision song. For me it lacks authenticity, sincerity – something that would grab you attention make you want to stop and watch performance till the last second and vote for this ballad. By the way, right from the start it reminded me of Et uus saaks alguse and no wonder Youtube suggested me to watch Estonia 2013 after this one!

What do you think of “Keelatud Maa”? Are you excited to hear these songs? What kind of entry would you like to read being discussed on Slideback Sundays? Let us know!  Be sure to stay updated by following @ESCXTRA on Twitter, @escxtra on Instagram, and liking our Facebook page for the latest updates! Also, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel to see our reactions over the coming months.

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