In order to understand Estonian musical culture, it is essential to recognise the role of singing in the formation of Estonian statehood. During the second half of the 19th century, village choirs were the main form of social communication, and these later led to the development the of the societies that were so essential to the independence of the Republic of Estonia. These deep roots in choral music can be seen in the Song Festival that has been held every five years for the past 130 years. In year 2004 about 34 000 singers, dancers and musicians took part of it.
Nowadays Arvo Pärt, Paavo and Neeme Järvi, Tõnu Kaljuste, Veljo Tormis, Erkki-Sven Tüür, Eri Klas, Olari Elts, Urmas Sisask… these Estonian names are known to musicians and music lovers in many parts of the world, either from listening to their music or watching them conduct the best orchestras in musical Meccas. The musical cooperation between Estonia and Finland has founded a large orchestra called Estonian-Finnish Symphony Orchestra which has produced several CDs and held many theme concerts.
As concerns pop music, some singers who enjoyed the popularity throughout the entire Soviet Union are still popular. One of the most noteworthy of these is Tõnis Mägi who is still writing and singing in his original powerful style. The increased of self-assurance of Estonian pop-music can be seen in the desire to sing in Estonian as much as in English. The girl-band Blacky performs the original rock songs of its soloist Lea Liitmaa. Another girl-band Vanilla Ninja has given concerts in different places in Europe. Apart from the popular rock and roll style hiphop (Toe Tag, Chalice) is also becoming popular. Students often prefer the intellectual style of the music of Dagö, Singer-Vinger and Genialistid are known for their sophisticated and witty texsts and musical ideas.
The musical calendar in Estonian culture is vibrant and full of many annual events. These include the Jazzkaar festival in spring which tends to exceed the boundaries of jazz music (crossing into ethnic music), the NYYD festival which presents 20th century experimental music and the summer Viljandi Folk Music Festival which has a good atmosphere and exellent performers.