Jaak Johanson

Singer and actor

Jaak Johanson is an Estonian actor and singer. He has graduated from the Tallinn Conservatory in 1982 with a degree in acting. Worked first as an actor at the Tallinn Town Theatre and throughout the years has worked in numerous cultural projects. Later he has been performing more as singer-songwriter and sometimes together with his two brothers Ants, Mart and a sister Kärt, singing both traditional and original songs.

Together with an outstanding Estonian director Merle Karusoo and some young actors and students, he formed in 1987 an independent socio-historical theatre project “Pirgu Memory Group” and for 5 years actively toured in Estonia, collecting diaries, songbooks, photos, etc., recording and videoing the LIFESTORIES of the older generation who had had no chance to speak out since the Soviet occupation was established in 1945. Several silently shocking documentary based performances and song & story compositions was the outcome and artistic mission of these tours. The whole gathered archive is still being processed and systhematized properly.

• Has been singing in Finland, Sweden, Ireland, Norway, Hungary, USA, Canada, England, France, China.
• Has participated as singer and actor in many project performances, e.g. Veljo Tormis “Estonian Ballads”, “Mens Songs”, with “Estonian strings” on EXPO 2010 in Shanghai etc.
• Has made radio programs about traditional music of different nations.
• If no way to escape, has also appeared on TV and made recordings, but prefers more eye to eye, face to face situations.


RUNO-SONG – welcome to experience a unique singing tradition of Estonia and the ancient Finno-Ugric peoples

11.07.2018 and 12.07.2018 / 8:30 PM  – 10 PM

With Kärt Johanson

On the shores of the Gulf of Finland the ancient Finno-Ugric peoples originated a unique singing tradition, called RUNO-SONG or REGI-LAUL.

Old traditional songs of Estonians, Finns, Carelians, Izhorians and Votes constitute a single phenomenon. It is generally believed that this singing tradition, common to the Balto-Finns, started to take shape in the first centuries of the common era or perhaps a bit earlier. It is kind of surprising that exactly here in Estonia this tradition has been living up to the second half of the last century, having so been well recorded and acknowledged as the roots of our renowned singing culture. Based on the constant repetition of eight-syllable verses, between the lead singer and the chorus, these really archaic songs produce haunting sound- and mind-scapes, able to connect the fleeing present with the eternal circle of life. Against the stunning setting of modern Estonia, these songs still fire the imagination, weaving together eternally restless and obviously lost human spirit, with nature, with ancestors, with the One, whose name we even don’t remember … maybe …

# first of all we’ll just sing all together some runos
# then we can talk about it: form, structure, different examples: lullabies, charms, spells, epics, cosmologies, etc. …
# then just sing and sing and sing … providing translations … maybe sing a translation … maybe improvise something together …

Once upon a time RUNOS were the “platform” to cover and communicate and memorise all important aspects of life & death
in these forests, valleys, mountains and seas … Thats an experience to keep somewhere glowing at the back of our busy minds.


GEN Europe
GEN Estonia


Ave Oit
(+372) 5649 9199


Mariana França


Mari Palgi


Kaie Kotov
(+372) 5690 6231

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