Maatasa’s journey began in 2013 when a group of young individuals who had worked together on traditional music renditions and arrangements decided to learn more about their authentic roots. They began studying Southern Estonian folklore in a variety of areas, including songs, dances, instruments, folk tales, folk costumes, and more. Southern Estonia is unique in terms of folklore because it has maintained its traditions for longer than the rest of the country. Contra dances, partner dances, and tunes once played by Southern Estonian instrumentalists are all part of Maatasa’s repertoire. The group performs both traditional regilaul and popular 19.-20 songs about love and life. The majority of the songs performed and sung by the ensemble were found in museum archives and learned via recordings. Maatasa instruments include well-known instruments like the violin, jew’s harp, bagpipe, guitar, and mandolin, as well as traditional Southern Estonian instruments like the kannel and karmoška.
The group first performed using the name “Maatasa” on the 16th of February in 2013 at the international festival Baltica. This date is also regarded as the anniversary of Maatasa. Since then, the folklore club has grown to about 30 members, all of whom sing, play instruments, and perform traditional dances. Maatasa’s name can be understood in two ways: the Estonian word “maatasa” means “down to earth,” which refers to the group’s focus on authentic, traditional folklore. It can also be interpreted as “to the dust,” referring to how the group incorporates their own vision and ideas into traditional songs and tunes.
The leader of Tartu Folklore Club Maatasa is Halliki Pihlap, who has a master’s degree from Tartu University in Cultural Management.
The music director of Maatasa is Helin Pihlap, who has a master’s degree from the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre in violin.
The dance coach and choreographer for Maatasa is Raul Markus Vaiksoo, who has a bachelor’s degree from Tartu University in biology, semiotics, and theory of culture.
The umbrella organization for Maatasa is the Tartu Christian Adolescent Home.
Maatasa is part of the International Association of Mask traditions (Associazione Maschere Internazionali, Italy). Maatasa is also part of the Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps.
Maatasa has performed at a number of international festivals, including “Sárvár International Folklore Days” (2019), “Folk Azores” (2018), “54th Tydzie Kultury Beskidzkiej” (2017), and “Baltica” in Latvia (2014). Maatasa has brought Estonian violin traditions to the Latvian festival “Dzv Mzika” (2021) and St. Martin’s Day mask celebrations to the Latvian festival “Starptautiskais masku tradciju festivls” (2020).
The ensemble has represented Estonia at the web event “Folklore at Distance” (CIOFF ® International Worldwide Folklore Marathon 2020). Maatasa has taken part in Est-Lat-Rus events and performed at various dance festivals and nights in Latvia. The group has also performed all over Estonia and particularly in Tartu, at events such as Tartu Hanseatic Days, Tartu City Day, Advent events, spring festivities, museum nights, and other events.
Maatasa first started organizing and planning the international Tartu Youth Folklore Festival in 2016. The idea was to create a festival where young folklore enthusiasts from the Baltic and Northern European countries could meet. When COVID restrictions made hosting the event in 2020 difficult, Maatasa had to come up with another plan. Hence, the idea of Tartu Folk-Off, an online show that brings together folklore musicians and dancers from all around Europe, was born. Maatasa has hosted a number of community events and dance nights in both Estonia and abroad.
Members of Maatasa learn to sing, dance, and play instruments not only during Maatasa rehearsals but also at various music schools. Dance and music camps, held twice a year in the winter and summer, have since become a tradition. A number of Estonian folklore specialists and musicians have visited the camps to introduce their fields of study and/or research.
The album “Õtak tulõ” was released in 2018 to celebrate Estonia’s 100th year of independence. The album showcases Southern Estonian folklore through songs, instruments, and even traditional costumes. The album provides an overview of the ensemble’s activities over the previous five years, representing the journey of discovering their roots and developing their own distinct image. Maatasa has also released five music videos (2020–2021) that not only showcase the beautiful scenery and views of Southern Estonia and their city, Tartu but also share Southern Estonian tradition through music.
Listen to the album here
Watch the videos here
Maatasa’s traditional costumes represent the clothes worn in Southern Estonia, especially in Tartumaa. Acquiring the costumes was supported by the Cultural Endowment of Estonia. The ensemble has a blog dedicated to the costumes.
Look at the costumes here
The group has been chosen as the representative for Tartu in the folklore field since 2016.
2020 – “Rahvakultuurikandja” nomination for music director Helin Pihlap, from Tartu City Government
2020 – “Tartumaa Kultuuripärl” for the leader of Maatasa Halliki Pihlap, from Cultural Endowment of Estonia
2020 – “Aasta Korraldaja” from Estonian Folk Dance and Folk Music Association
2021 – “Aasta Video” from Estonian Folk Dance and Folk Music Association
2021 – “Tubli tegija” from Eesti Rahvakultuuri Keskus