After Lembitu Malev announced late spring that as part of their 60th scouting anniversary celebrations on November 21st a band would be invited from Estonia to help mark the event by providing live music for a gala dance party interest in our community has been high. The YouTube generation has already found evidence online that Kala is an energetic group of musicians and actors ready to regale their audience with a blend of folk, pop and rock, their repertoire ranging from familiar Estonian tunes to Eurovision numbers.
Being more traditional in my approach to popular music I asked Merike Põldma, an organizer of the Lembitu gala, whether she could satisfy my interest in Kala’s recorded efforts. The CD that she provided in response answered a number of questions.
Kala is tightly knit and professional, with a sense of humour that becomes even more evident on repeated listening. The liner notes suggest the 14 cuts on their eponymous disc are “a return to their creative roots”, drawing inspiration from what the band members identify as their natural environment: being under water. Which must explain the curious cover art, but the sound, while slick, is certainly not diluted, nor watered down. Upon closer scrutiny the ensemble bonded while gaining certification as open water divers, the experiences gained plumbing watery depths contributed to their musical efforts. Hence the album cover, hence the name.
Followers of Estonian popular music will certainly recognize many names from those who make up the ensemble. Guitarist Ain Varts, who rose to fame as a member of Estonia’s best progrock group Ruja, is but one key performer; saxophonist Meelis Unt, a sought-after sideman on many of the best recent jazz albums from Estonia, is another contributor.
When Lembitu kicked off this year’s scout meetings last Saturday, Enno Agur, the group’s commissioner, noted in both official languages that Toronto’s oldest scout group is facing numerous challenges in maintaining interest in scouting. Not least is the question of Estonian language skills. Understandably, children of Estonian parents born abroad, especially in our electronic and mass media dominated era, need to be reminded in person by role models of the importance of our culture, what it means to be Estonian. All this in a milieu that emphasizes, as scouting does, respect for the environment, love of one’s homeland and roots, and of timeless Christian values. Lembitu has always stressed scouting in Estonian, and continues to do so, while making necessary accommodations.
For generations now Lembitu and our other scouting and guiding groups abroad have provided nurturing surroundings in which to grow and learn, how to in turn to give back willingly to a society that fosters such an important upbringing for youngsters. Scouting challenges are many and they are faced with the understanding that if the experience is not enjoyable, if learning essential life skills is not also fun, then our youth will likely turn elsewhere, perhaps stray from the fold, become lost to our community. Those who have passed through the ranks of Lembitu will be quick to agree: the value of scouting is perhaps unparalleled in providing a foundation for being a productive, contributing member of society. Lief Kolga, who stepped into the Cub Scout ranks last Saturday, has many such examples to follow while having fun during his developmental years with Lembitu.
Some will no doubt question the wisdom of investing money in bringing an ensemble from Estonia to Toronto during the present global financial uncertainty, at a time when most of our volunteer organizations are facing economic hurdles. This is a very shortsighted viewpoint. In order to continue the important work done by our scouting volunteers it must be demonstrated to the next generations that scouting is a vital and critical aspect of being Estonian. Many of today’s community leaders have learned the fundamentals of working together at meetings, at Kotkajärve during both summer and winter camps, and as ambassadors abroad. Members of the Canadian-Estonian contingent that attended this summer’s suurlaager in Estonia have remarked what a memorable experience it was to be sought out for their specific skills. Their willingness to assist local scouts and guides in ensuring that the international jamboree was a success was evident to all. Just try to achieve that feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction as a faceless or, OK, facebook member of the bored and perpetually texting class!
I was told after the recent Nõupäevad at Kotkajärve by a young youth leader that the hand sign displayed by a Kala member on Lembitu’s promotional poster for the dance party (designed by Jaak Järve), has nothing to do with the Texas Longhorns, or for the matter of that with any other secret society. Flashing kotinõel and väike ats with the other fingers curled inwards means “rock on!” Consider this your invitation to join Kala and the extended Lembitu family at Eesti Maja on November 21st to redefine having fun as an Estonian, even if your scouting days are long behind you. Your participation will help ensure that Lembitu can keep providing our youth with exciting multifaceted challenges on the road to adulthood for years to come.
I leave you with a thought from Zhuangzi, Taoism’s second most important classic: Zhuangzi said, “The white fish are swimming at ease. This is the happiness of fish.” “You are not a fish,” said Hui Shi. “How do you know its happiness?” Kala knows. Happiness is fish!
Register now for a seat, or better yet book a table for 10, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone with Enno Agur 416 485-9889, Eerik Randsalu, 647 688-7143, or Merike Põldma 416 888-0397.
These fish know how to have fun! (5)