I like to create and play music that bridges the gap between composed and improvised music, smoothly transitioning from one to the other. This fluid style creates a personal and intimate connection with other musicians. A reflective approach is central to my artistry. Where words fail, music speaks. – Merje Kägu
Merje Kägu is a guitarist and composer from Pärnu, Estonia, who now lives in Gothenburg, Sweden. She started studying classical guitar at the age of 8 under the guidance of teachers Peeter Prints. This opened up a new palette of musical colours that were unknown to her until then. Although the main focus was on learning a classical music repertoire, she was also encouraged to improvise and create her own music. This nourished her love for music and created a deeper connection with a world of different sounds. This led her gradually toward jazz music, and, at the age of 16, she started studying jazz guitar with Marek Talts. These fruitful classes not only taught her about the wonders of jazz music and its history, but also about musicianship.
After high school she moved to Estonia’s capital, Tallinn, to study music. First under the guidance of Mart Soo at Georg Otsa Music College, before going on to study jazz at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre under the guidance of Jaak Sooäär.
A desire to learn more about her instrument, and Scandinavian improvised music, impelled her to move to Denmark to study at The Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, Southern Denmark. It was here that inspirational and eye-opening musical experiences and lessons with saxophonist Marc Bernstein, Danish guitarists Asger Jacoby and Thor Madsen, and French contemporary avant-garde jazz guitarist Marc Ducret reawakened her interest in composing and arranging.
After a successful year in Denmark, Merje moved on to Gothenburg University’s Academy of Music and Drama in Sweden, where she gained a master’s degree specialising in improvisation performance. It was here that her interest for crossover projects started to grow, and the Gothenburg music scene was the perfect place for her to appear with her original music, and learn more about her own musical language.
During her studies in Gothenburg Merje collaborated with musicians from Norway. This introduced her to new artists and opportunities to discover inspiring music. Leading to Merje to study composition at The Norwegian Academy of Music. There she was taught to compose for both small and large ensembles in a classical as well as jazz music context under the guidance of Kjell Habbestad, Bente Leiknes Thorsen and Helge Sunde.
2016 Tiit Pauluse young guitar player’s prize
2015 Gurmund-Neubergh’s prize
2008 Uno Naissoo Composition Contest, special prize for a piece “Eksperiment”
2006 Rainbow Jazz competition for best arrangement
2018 Merje Kägu Ensemble When Silence Falls
2017 ILM I Only Hear the Water (together with Jana Abzalon)
2014 iNK SoundHouse (live drum’n’bass). Drum’n’bass album of the year
2013 Tuuli VellingKuus ruutmeetrit põranda pinda
2012 Rebecca Kontus Flâneur
Gothenburg Art Sounds (Sweden)
Planeta Festival (Sweden)
Women in Jazz (Sweden)
Parma Jazz Frontiere (Italy)
Winter Jazz (Denmark)
Mozg Festival (Poland)
Tallinn Music Week (Estonia)
Viljandi Guitar Festival (Estonia)
Viru Folk (Estonia)
And many more…
On her music Merje states:
“Throughout my career, I have been studying and working in the field of improvised music, performing, composing, recording and working with various ensembles and artists. My professional work as a performer-composer has always leaned towards close collaborative work with musicians from different fields. During these occasions it has provided opportunities to add numerous elements to my music. Playing music is something that attracts my attention and curiosity. I feel it is what inspires me. I like to create and play music that bridges the gap between composed and improvised music, smoothly transitioning from one to the other. This fluid style creates a personal and intimate connection with other musicians.”
When Silence Falls
When Silence Falls is guitarist Merje Kägu’s first solo album as a composer and ensemble leader.
This music is an intimate journey. It is a reflection of experiences and dialogues with myself and others. It is about losing and finding oneself, about growth and awakening, as well as longing and silence. When Silence Falls embraces the understated beauty of being perfectly imperfect. It is a humble portrait of humanness, in which fragility and strength become one. It is about the rise after falling. The movement of honesty.
With combinations of jazz, classical and minimalist elements I aimed to create a world of melodic colours as well as allow space for an intimate storytelling voice to speak. There’s an atmospheric drift to the music which subtly contrasts and combines the soulful interpretations and improvisations. I like to create and play music that bridges the gap between composed and improvised music, smoothly transitioning from one to the other. This fluid style creates a personal and intimate connection with other musicians. A reflective approach is central to my artistry.
The group, which was formed in 2016, in Gothenburg, not only brings together musicians from around the world, but also from different musical backgrounds – classical, world and improvisational music.
For Merje, the ensemble consists of musicians that have truly inspired her with their deep appreciation and dedication to music, as well as their humbleness and understanding of its delicacy and sophistication. Each composition on When Silence Fallsis laced with the gentle touches of each musician and brought to life by their shared experiences.
Merje Kägu guitar, Anders Jormin double bass, Jesse Ojajärvi drums, Åsa B. Johansson violin, voice, Leonor Palazzo cello, Marina Cyrino flute, Blanca Sans Ballart oboe, english horn