Viljandi Folk Music Festival

The theme of XXIV Viljandi Folk Music Festival is WOMEN’S VOICE

The theme of this year’s Viljandi Folk Music Festival is devoted to one of the most beautiful and expressive natural sound in the world – the woman’s voice. We concentrate on how women express themselves through singing and instrument playing both in Estonia and abroad, today and in the past. How does the work of contemporary Estonian female singers influence us? What kind of messages are communicated through female voices? How do the voices of faraway guests speak to us – for example, the women who carry out water rituals on Vanuatu island or the Mauritian female singing which the locals believe to have medicinal properties? The famous Georgian men’s singing has been capturing the hearts of festivalgoers for decades, now it’s time for the Georgian women to show what they are made of.

But why women, one might ask. Does that not hint at inequality and discrimination? Older Estonian folk songs have always been strongly influenced by the gender binary. You can usually identify whether the songs were sung by women or men based on the themes and motifs. These themes are still relevant today because these songs were sung straight from the hearts of our ancestors and we are able to listen to them today thanks to archival records and notes. This year, we are concentrating on what out female ancestors used to sing.

In this country, women were not always allowed on stage. At the first Estonian song festival in 1869, only male choirs were allowed on stage and women had to stay home during the busy haymaking season. Nowadays, the stages are shared equally between both sexes and this is how it is supposed to be. Back when women’s word was not worth much, they expressed themselves through their voice because the word of the singer was a law unto oneself – women were free to say whatever they wanted in song. Thus, women claimed their voice in the society through their singing. The powerful female voices of runo songstresses Anneli Vabarna, Liisa Kümmel and several others have deservedly made their way from the hidden confines of history onto grand stages, gleaming back to the audiences from the disco balls or hovering through time as part of new arrangements.

One of the meanings of women’s voice is the right to vote. It is worth mentioning that in Estonia, women got the right to vote exactly 99 years ago in 1917. Despite that, women’s right to vote is still limited or non-existent in several countries. The right to vote and women’s singing voice are both empowered by the courage and need to express oneself and use and develop one’s skills.


Annual Meeting of UNESCO Honorary and Goodwill Ambassadors

This year’s Annual Meeting of UNESCO Honorary and Goodwill Ambassadors, convened by the Director-General, Irina Bokova, took place at UNESCO Headquarters on 15 June, and brought together outstanding personalities from the worlds of art, film, music, literature, charity and public affairs.

The Honorary and Goodwill Ambassadors such as Her Royal Highness Grand Duchess  Maria Teresa  of Luxembourg, Her Royal Highness Princess Firyal of Jordan, Ms. Marta Sebestyen, Mrs. Ivonne A-Baki, Mr. Metin Arditi, Mr. Pierre Bergé, Mrs. Claudia Cardinale, Ms.  Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, Mrs. Bahia Hariri, Mr. Alain Husson-Dumoutier, Mr. Jean Michel Jarre, Mr. Cyprien Katsaris, Countess Setsuko Klossowska de Rola, Mr. Jean Malaurie, Mr. Serguei Markarov, Mrs. Mariana Nicolesco, Mr. Eijin Nimura, Mr. Ali Mahdi Nouri, Mr. Jordi Savall, Mr. Zurab Tsereteli, Mrs. Marianna Vardinoyannis, and many others joined this important gathering.

In this very special year celebrating the 70th anniversary of UNESCO, the main topics of discussion were focused on actions such as the World Education Forum 2015, UNESCO’s thought on the issues related to youth and Internet, the “UNITE4HERITAGE” campaign, as well as UNESCO’s participation at the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21/CMP11) to be held in Paris from 30 November to 11 December 2015.

The Goodwill Ambassadors also presented their work over the past year and discussed their experiences. Another highlight of this year’s meeting was the performance by the troupe “Al Buggaa”, directed by Mr. Ali Mahdi Nouri, UNESCO Artist for Peace.

The UNESCO Goodwill Ambassadors are an outstanding group of celebrity advocates who have generously accepted to use their talent and status to help focus the world’s attention on the Organization’s mission. They extend and amplify UNESCO’s work in its fields of education, culture, science, communication and information.


Top 10 most influential Hungarians

It is still the great and wise elderly who are considered to stand in the forefront of the Hungarian hall of fame, however, behind Ernő Rubik, István Szabó and Imre Kertész young people have also appeared on the TOP10 list. In the framework of the survey organised by Bridge Budapest, representatives of famous foreign media, such as CBSNews, Die Welt, Gazeta and Huffington Post nominated the most influential Hungarians and success stories. This is how the Bridge Budapest Top10 list was set up, indicating the most successful Hungarians.

The final outcome of voting on the Bridge Budapest Top10 list held several surprises – artists and innovators have the greatest impact according to foreigners, young people and women have less reputation. After Ernő Rubik, István Szabó and Imre Kertész are the second and third on the list. Young people are the fourth: András S. Takács and Eszter Cseke participated in several international competitions with On the Spot, with better results than world famous news channels. “It is a great honour for us to be on the same list with Péter Nádas or Béla Tarr, it still makes my flesh creep and I still can’t believe that we can be placed ahead of these people. The simple fact that we figure on the list at all is due to the people who shared their lives and tough experiences with us from Gaza to Johannesburg. This was a huge motivation and responsibility for us at the same time: we had to learn how to tell their stories in a unique way which made our report outstanding and special among all the other reports, documentaries all around the world” – said the two documentary film-makers. The fifth place was taken by Béla Tarr, film director, followed by Péter Nádas, writer and Iván Fischer, conductor and composer. According to Iván Fischer, several ingredients are required for world-fame: “international knowledge, discovering opportunities in our own country, ability for constant change and to see the future”. The complete TOP10 list will also be published in the October release of the Forbes magazine with further details.


Bridge Budapest is a non-profit association that has launched the survey in order to prove that in possession of the relevant knowledge and performance it is possible to achieve world-fame even starting from Budapest – be it artistic activity or a global enterprise –, while in Hungary today 90% of young people aged between 20 and 35 consider that it is only personal contacts that have impact on our career and professional success. In the unique international survey organized during the summer of 2014, the leading media and journalists from 12 countries – including the United States, Germany, Bulgaria and Turkey – were asked to vote for and nominate the 10 most influential Hungarian success stories of the world from a list of 50 candidates. The list was compiled independent of politics and it contained names of innovators, sportsmen and women, and artists – including, among others, Gábor Bojár, the founder of Graphisoft, Krisztina Egerszegi, swimming champion, Veronika Harcsa and Márta Sebestyén, singers, Ádám Somlai-Fischer, Péter Árvai, the co-founders of Prezi, Árpád Schilling, director and Bence Máté, nature photographer.

“It is great to see the diverse walks of life and different professional background where people come from. Unfortunately, we often have the feeling that Hungary is a small country and we have a language that is spoken nowhere else in the world and therefore we cannot give as much to the world as we would wish to. This list proves the contrary. I am really positive that more and more Hungarian names will be added to this list, giving evidence that more and more ideas originating from Hungary will reach people all around the world which everyone wants to hear about.” – explained Péter Árvai, co-founder and managing director of Prezi.

The TOP10 list contains the names of the Hungarians who made career on an international scale starting from Hungary. The interviewed journalists mentioned several Hungarians who became famous abroad, such as the co-founder of Intel, Andy Grove, György Soros, investor, Charles Simonyi, businessman and Kati Marton, writer.

Although there are many innovations that originate from Hungary, there are many young people who move abroad hoping that they will make it there. Bridge Budapest’s objective with Top10 – whose founders are successful startup enterprises that launched their business in Hungary (Logmein, NNG, Prezi and Ustream) – is to demonstrate that it is possible to realize your dreams anywhere, even in Hungary, with a good idea, hard work, and luck: these success stories are exemplary. Real recognition of success and talent is measured by the fact that success is considered world-fame not only from Hungary but it really is in itself.