Kerli Kõiv is no cultural ambassador
Apologies to Milan Kundera for borrowing from the title from his literary masterpiece, which explores artistic behaviour during the Prague Spring with an intellectual and philosophical vigour, that apparently is untranslatable. Kundera is on record saying Hollywood’s version of The Unbearable Lightness of Being with Daniel Day-Lewis had little if nothing in common with his book, which was written in 1982, but only published, with Kundera’s approval in the Czech Republic in the original Czech in 2006. Kundera has remarked that the movie had very little to do with either the spirit of the novel or the characters in it.
Yet after listening to the feather-brained Kerli’s now officially, (as of yesterday) released single “Zero Gravity”, and seeing the brand new video, courtesy of Õhtuleht (link below) I found no other words to describe this vapid paean to all that Hollywood in its brainwashing fervour holds dear.
What is truly a weightless number was actually already on the air, if you will excuse the attempt at humour, already last year. Kerli performed “Zero Gravity” at Vabaduse laul, Freedom song, in Tallinn, along with other English language numbers (that August 20th festival marked 20 years of reindependence from Soviet occupation for the younger set). The 25 year-old from Elva apparently has very few Estonian selections in her repertoire. So a young man, who greeted my news about Kerli’s release by beginning to sing the song, tells me.
I’ll leave the blatant anti-Christian symbolism in the video for others to comment on, but it is there – just as it was when Kerli first came to my attention with her initial attempt at swaying young minds with the help of superficial America and Hollywood. That was with the release of “Walking on Air”, which demonstrated more musical and lyrical fluff coupled with mind control symbolism.
I wrote about Kerli in Eesti Elu’s supplement Estonian Life, in June 27, 2008, comparing her to a genuine positive young Estonian musical influence abroad, Hanna Ild in England, under the title “Estonian Idol.” (That article was not posted online, as was the case with the majority of my serious writings for Estonian Life. I did not agree with their policy of posting material online for free, seeing it as not only a flawed business model but also short-changing paying subscribers. And as I did not get paid for posting anything online, it was a no-brainer.)
Hanna, who, like Kerli, has become a one-name artist, “Hannah”, has changed musical directions, and seems to have new management and no longer, to my mind qualifies as a pure ambassador of Estonian culture. However, at that time, her emphasis on her roots and the history of her country, writing in The Sunday Times (Sunday, June 22, 2008, “Best of Times, Worst of Times”) of Soviet tanks rolling down the highway in her youth, at the age of 10, in August of 1991, qualified.
Especially so, as the article was published just 8 days after Estonia had solemnly commemorated the first large wave of Soviet deportations to Siberia, a commemoration that we in the west had officially performed for decades.
Hanna’s grandmother had somehow survived the 1941 atrocities, and Hanna and her brother stayed with her during the summers. The summer home was near Kabli, just off the Pärnu-Riga highway.
During the Soviet occupation information was tightly controlled and any mention of the deportations and other repressions by the seltsimehed was discouraged. Thus it was only 20 years ago that Hanna learned about the extent of the suffering her family had endured during WW II. Grandmother had married during the war, had a baby, and seen her husband off on one of the last ships leaving Estonia in 1944, fearing the worst for her spouse. She was never to see him again. Her husband did eventually make it to Canada, as did many of our grandparents and parents. Hanna’s grandmother never saw her own parents or sister again either. They all perished in Stalin’s GULAGs.
As I wrote in 2008, Hanna Ild’s grandmother is no longer here to remind us of Soviet atrocities, but Hanna is. That is what made her then our ambassador, a worthy representative to other nations.
Kerli is another individual altogether. Her media attention in 2008 was for her single and video” Walking on Air”. Replete with black-and white contrast, all-seeing eyes and imagery, triangular symbols that I am sure our web commentators will fill us in on. It was as shameless an emulation of Lady Gaga as “Zero Gravity” is. I wrote then that Kerli “shamelessly rides the coattails of her Estonian heritage while being nothing but a Californian.” View the video yourself on YouTube, and tell me if you disagree:
Kerli performed “Walking on Air” at Vabaduse Laul last year as well. It was more than a bit unnerving to see her on stage in garish makeup, again following in Madame Make-me-Gag’ platform shoes and ridiculous garb, waving our tricolour and singing about “a creepy little town in a creepy little world.” Is that her Elva, her Eesti?
That version is also on YouTube:
The news that Canadian cross-country skier Len Väljas was selected as this year’s Estonian winter athlete of the year by none other than Õhtuleht, Estonia’s answer to any Rupert Murdoch publication that one would care to name, reminded me again of what true ambassador status is. Achievements, such as Väljas’, bring positive renown to our people; selling out to vested interest groups does not. Actually, I feel ashamed that Kerli wears her “estonianness” as prominently as she does. My brother-in-law’s daughters, only half Estonian, who do not speak any other words other than vanaema, have mocked me when I suggest that there is real evil in the symbolism that Kerli clothes herself in. Just as many other know-it-all young 20’s women do, they throw about words such as “Satanism” without really knowing what it stands for. The same applies for Stalinism, but that is grist for another mill.
Of course, this has probably always been the case with popular music – the young are scorned and derided by their parents. Think about jazz, the only musical form to which Americans can lay founding father status. Immoral, indecent, sinful, lust-driven were but part of the words used to describe jazz as it found acceptance in wider American society. Let us not even discuss Elvis Presley and the Beatles – but at least, they had musical originality to fall back upon their lust-driven songs.
With the advent of MTV and videos, instant access to musical entertainment, the message is spread further faster than ever before. If only Kerli’s transparency were obvious to others, who she invited to join her “Army of Love” (the title of her second album).
Love, not lust, is what makes the world go around. A love that is not necessarily greater than that of a man and woman is the passion we feel for our kodumaa. In music these emotions are blurred, and the choice of producers, videographers and lyricists from Hollywood only guarantees the possibility of temporal fame, not a happy and connected existence. The afterlife does not even enter into the equation.
Even Õhtulehtmusic blogger Kaspar Käärik was dismayed, asking “why, Kerli, why?” For Käärik the “pulsating” tune from “rave repertoire” is lightweight, for me, it is simply unbearable.
The second last word is from Kerli. She told the press that the words to “Zero Gravity” were written in praise of the sylphids, who are the female goddesses of the air. She “loves air as an element”, feeling that this etherealness is an ever-present theme in her music. But we Estonians consider weight to be important. Akaalutud otsus is a well-weighed, deliberate and judicious decision. Walking on air, or floating in no-g free-fall, is not how our ancestors survived centuries of occupation.
I leave the last word to readers, listeners. And, of course, the viewers of this symbolism-ridden video.
Kerli’s video, and Käärik’s commentary courtesy of Õhtuleht: http://www.ohtuleht.ee/469660
Unbearable weightlessness (5)