TSIBIHÄRBLASEQ

TSIBIHÄRBLASEQ

BandFolkWorld

To call this formation a band would be inappropriate and far too limited. This choir of maidens is a leelo-choir from the heart of Setomaa, Obinitsa. These songbirds started out as children and have been evolving ever since, singing songs of their nation - small in numbers, but great in voice.

Biography

To call this formation a band would be inappropriate and far too limited. This choir of maidens is a leelo-choir – from the heart of Setomaa, Obinitsa. These songbirds started out as children and have been evolving ever since, singing songs of their nation – small in numbers, but great in voice – to new life. Dignified Seto grandmothers have tought them and given them example. Todays enviroment and listeners have influenced them in another way, but as long as the audience enjoys their music they are not only preservers of the proud leelo-tradition of Seto women, but its convincing bearers.

For the Seto community living in south-eastern Estonia and the Pechory district of the Russian Federation, the tradition of leelo, an ancient polyphonic singing tradition, is a cornerstone of contemporary identity. Performed to traditional melodies and in traditional costume, leelo features a lead singer who delivers a verse line followed by a choir that joins in for the final syllables and then repeats the whole line. Although lyrics are sometimes learned from former great performers, skill in composition is the mark of an excellent lead singer. Most choirs are composed wholly of women, and the most notable lead singer is crowned every year on Seto Kingdom Day as the King’s ‘Mother of Song’. Singing formerly accompanied nearly all daily activities in the Seto’s rural communities; today, although it is increasingly restricted to stage performance, the tradition remains prominently alive in community events as a central, vibrant and highly valued element of Seto culture.

The original Seto culture developed from Eastern and Western cultures (katõ ilma veere pääl - "on the border of two worlds"). The estimated population of Setos in Estonia is 10,000 - 13,000, of which ca 3,000 - 4,000 live on their indigenous land.

Setos are very religious people. Every household has its own icon corner (pühäsenulk) and almost every village has its own small chapel (Tsässon). As a rule, the chapels are locked and the key is held by the village elder or chapel master/mistress. An opportunity to visit a Seto chapel may come on village holidays when it’s opened for public prayer.
The chapel traditions are sacred to Orthodox Setos. During church holidays people gather to honour the souls of their ancestors. In the morning a service is held, followed by a procession around the chapel. Afterwards people go to their ancestors’ graves, where they eat and drink. Some food is often left for the souls of the dead.

If you want to hear the archaic Seto language, find an opportunity to listen to a Seto Leelo choir. Leelo is the Seto folk song, where the singer improvises the words and the choir then repeats. Most famous singers were able to sing up to 10,000–20,000 rhymes and they earned the title of "Seto Mother of Songs."
You should also certainly see traditional Seto villages. Closed cluster-villages in Setomaa are built in a way that you cannot peek into a neighbour’s yard. A typical Seto homestead is a closed inner courtyard surrounded by buildings, high gates and partition fences - a "castle homestead."

Seto leelo inscribed in 2009 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO

Discography

album scheduled October 2010

Set List

traditional Seto leelo's