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Prog Folk • Estonia

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Ruja biography
RUJA is one of the major prog bands of Estonia, which was formed in year 1971, and in addition of being pioneers in Estonia prog music, they were also pioneers in the field of rock music generally. They had several changes in their line-ups and even in their musical styles (like the Finnish band KALEVALA), and I try to sum up their colourful history here for you.

Their first recordings were done in the studios of Estonia radio, and the line-up was Raul Sepper (voc), Rein Rannap (kb), Urmas Alender (gtr), Paul Mägi (multi/winds) Toomas Veenre (gtr), Andrus Vaht (dr). Later in February 1972 the line-up changed as Raul Sepper left the group, and Urmas Alender started doing the singing. Toomas Veenre started studying music and left the band too, and Andres Pöldroo joined in for a moment, soon to be replaced by Jaanus Nõgisto. Also Tiit Haagma joined the group for playing the bass. This personnel would be active the next two years, doing recordings and giving concerts. The band sung in Estonian language, and often used the works of famous poets for their lyrics.

The following years brought up more again changes in the musicians. In year 1975 the keyboard player Rein Rannap left the group, and was replaced by Margus Kappel. This was a quite big change, as Rein had done most of the song writing, and now this fundamental role was taken by Jaanus Nõgisto and Margus Kappel. About a year later drummer Andrus Vaht changed to play temporaily in another band called MESS and he was replaced by, and also bassist Tiit Haagma left and was replaced by Priit Kuulberg.

After existing over a decade, the band hadn't yet been able to release any records, though their music had been broadcasted in the radio and they had given many concerts (luckily many of these recordings were preserved, and were released later). In year 1979 they got their chance to release a four-track self-titled EP, which had quite progressive songs in it. After this, the group disbanded for few years, and the musicians of the band committed in other bands like ROCK HOTEL, IN SPE and PROPELLER. The last one mentioned was a punk band, and it was later banned by the local authorities. After this RUJA regrouped, and the line-up was Jaanus Nõgisto (gtr), Urmas Alender (gtr, voc), Tiit Haagma (bs), Rein Rannap (kb) and Arvo Urb (dr), who was soon replaced by Jaan Karp. This line-up didn't play very progressive music anymore in a classic sense, as their influences very drawn from rockabilly,...
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RUJA discography

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RUJA top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 6 ratings
3.14 | 5 ratings
Kivi Veereb
3.00 | 2 ratings
Pust Budet Vsjo

RUJA Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

RUJA Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

RUJA Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Must Lind
3.83 | 6 ratings
Need Ei Vaata Tagasi...

RUJA Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

RUJA Reviews

Showing last 10 reviews only
 Kivi Veereb  by RUJA album cover Studio Album, 1987
3.14 | 5 ratings

Kivi Veereb
Ruja Prog Folk

Review by Andis

3 stars This LP I found years ago and it has kind of stuck with me and I still bring it out to let it spin sometimes. This is the one and only album that I have of Ruja and they're kind of hard to find in Sweden. On this album, Ruja plays a melodic neo-progressive rock, here on PA it says that the band plays prog folk wich is not the case on this album. I would say their style is somewhere the two Pallas albums The sentinel and The web, with strong influences from bands like Saga, Omega, Kaipa and Progres 2. They play a very melodic straightforward rock with lots of melody, cool breaks with keyboards and guitars and have a few mellow passages within some of the songs. They sing in estonian and for an untrained ear I would say it sounds like a mix of finnish and hungarian (don't hold me responsible for that observation). Their songs are quite short wich I sometimes find is unlucky due to that some of the songs would probably have been great if they would have given them more time to develope. The recording is from the 80s with all things that follows, edgy guitars, high pitched keybards and drums that sometimes sounds like a gunshot. Although this is one of the albums that this isn't a big problem, it works out pretty well anyway when the music is interesting and it's not that bad. Many of the songs have a high tempo and it really makes me think of a combination of Pallas and Saga, the melody and the tempo from Pallas, the riffs from Saga. As with those two bands, Ruja also has influences from AOR, rock and pop, not so surprising from an album from 1987. A really interesting album that contains some really good songs. If Ruja would have been, for example, a british band, all you neoprogheads out there would have known their name. No doubt this was a high class band. 3,5 stars!
 Ruja by RUJA album cover Studio Album, 1981
3.00 | 6 ratings

Ruja Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars Everything I’ve read about this group indicates they were (and are) highly respected as a premiere progressive rock band and a significant musical influence in their Estonian homeland. That said, given the facts that virtually all their lyrics are sung in Estonian, and they only released three or four albums in a nearly thirty year career, one has to take much of that eminence and influence on faith.

This is their first full-length album, released in 1982 and consisting as near as I can tell of a collection of some of the band’s more well-known songs (relatively speaking). A quick read on the group will reveal their most popular song of that day ("Eile nägin ma Eestimaad") was not included due to its politically-unacceptable lyrics (this was still Soviet- era Estonia, after all).

Interestingly the songs seem to get slightly more innovative as the album wears on; up- front there are a couple of near throwaways though. “Doktor Noormann” for example features an almost danceable drumbeat, keyboards fully revealing their 80s origin, and a sort of Men At Work-like vocal track. The next track “To Mr. Lennon” is a mostly acoustic, tender and piano-driven tribute to John Lennon written by lead vocalist the late Urmas Alender shortly after Lennon’s murder. In light of Alender’s obvious intent to honor Lennon I won’t be too critical of this track, but I have to say that it was probably a poor decision on his part to make this one of the very few songs the band ever recorded in English. I’m sure the group’s native Estonian tongue could have managed better lyrics than “You are not dead, you’re in my head” and “You’re in my brain, you remain”.

“Tule minuga sööklasse” (“Come to the diner with me”) is another archetypical 80s new- wave rock-sounding number, steeped in Beatles and Kinks influence but executed more like something Todd Rundgren would have had a hand in. A decent song given the time in which it was recorded, but not progressive at all as far as I’m concerned.

Things start looking up on the second half of the record though. While "Kus on see mees?" carries on with the bouncy dance rhythm 80s motif, keyboardist Rein Rannap (who arranged this song based on the words of beat poet Ott Arder) makes several notable attempts to stretch his ivory-tickling beyond simple pop-rock, to mostly nice effect. The same goes for the next track, which also includes the first and only guitar solo on the album courtesy Jaanus Nõgisto, who not surprisingly is the one who wrote this song. Again the arrangement is rooted in 60s pop-rock, but the native-language vocals and keyboards manage to keep the thing from sounding like a Ray Davies number.

Rannap and Alender manage to save the entire album with the next track, and deliver a musical message that transcends language. “Rahu” (peace) is a wonderful, anthem-like song with complete with synthesized string arrangements, plaintively beautiful piano and clearly heartfelt singing. Five stars for this song regardless of the rest of the album.

Unfortunately “Rahu” will be the highlight of the album, as both “Eile nägin ma Eestimaad!” and “Siin oled sündinud” fail to deliver much that transcends the 80s vibe in which they were delivered. The extended keyboard/guitar closing instrumental section on “Siin oled sündinud” comes close, but that’s about it.

It’s always hard to assess music from other cultures, especially when nuances of tradition, language and context are thrown into the equation. These songs are undoubtedly much more important to someone who lived in 80s Estonia than they could ever be to an outsider listening dispassionately to them nearly thirty years later. I can’t say that this album is a masterpiece or even essential, except possibly to fans of the band. It’s a decent record that, like so much of what was recorded around the same time, doesn’t hold up particularly well over time, but was clearly important to a specific audience when it was recorded. Three stars seem to be the right way to represent where it falls in the progressive music pantheon.


Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition.

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