President Toomas Hendrik Ilves to address the role of the Singing Revolution in Estonia’s restoration of-independence at the Tallinn Music Week conference

24 August 2021 Conference

Former President of the Republic of Estonia Ilves is to give a speech “30 Years of Independence – did Estonia sing its way to freedom?” on Friday, 1 October at 4 pm at the TMW 2021 Creative Impact Conference in the Nordic Hotel Forum conference centre.

During his presidency in 2006 – 2016, Toomas Hendrik Ilves repeatedly spoke at the TMW conference on the connections between human rights, freedom of speech and rock’n’roll.

“Those of you not from Estonia may find this perhaps odd and difficult to understand, but here, when people wanted to be free, they came together and sang,” he said in the opening speech of TMW 2014. “They sang rock, they sang folk, they sang classical, sometimes they sang religious music. It worked so well that today all this singing is called the “singing revolution”, because, after all, the basis of our protest was music. But that misses the point actually, because it’s free expression, in our case music, that allowed people to overcome their fear, their fear of repression, the consequences of singing, or speaking, their mind. Music, like other forms of art, does that.”

As a passionate supporter of freedom of speech, at TMW 2015 Ilves drew the attention of international media to the Russian punk band Pussy Riot’s arrest after their protest gig in Moscow’s Orthodox Church. “In an “unfree” society, being jailed is a real possibility, and such risks are not just a thing of the past,” said the President.

British musician PJ Harvey quoted Ilves’ TMW 2012 speech on her Facebook: “If the President of the Republic of Estonia quotes Jello Biafra and PJ Harvey, you know you are in a cool country!”

In TMW 2016 Ilves presented his charity compilation album “Teenage Wasteland – Favorites 1963-1678” with a special DJ-set. He has also introduced Estonia through its music and arts, bringing attention to numerous local musicians and composers over the years.   

Toomas Hendrik Ilves is best-known internationally for his work in 1995 – 2016 pushing Estonia to digitize its government. He is currently writing a book on democracy in the digital era and has spoken at many international forums about European integration, e-government and cyber security. He is a member of the advisory board of the Oxford University Centre for Technology and Global Affairs, a member of the Kofi Annan Foundation’s Global Commission – on Elections and Democracy in the Digital Age, a member of the Board of Free Russia Foundation, a Visiting Professor of Democracy in the Digital Age at the Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies of the University of Tartu and a Commissioner of the WHO Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development. 

The TMW 2021 conference will take place on 1 – 2 October at Nordic Hotel Forum, recently reopened as Estonia’s corona-safest hotel, and techno club HALL. The conference topics will focus on the interaction between local and global, from club culture to regional live music markets. The 30th anniversary of the restoration of Estonia’s independence will be marked by conversations about the role of the Singing Revolution and music as a tool for social change.

The main topics of the TMW 2021 conference:

Think Global, Act Local

Reshaping the Music Industry

Careers in Music

Music and Activism

Sustainable Development

Additional info: 

The conference takes place both on-site and online and will be organised in accordance with the rules applicable to public events, which will help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

TMW PRO Pass is on sale until 31 August at discounted price of 150 euros at From 1 September, PRO Pass costs 175 euros. PRO Pass grants both on-site and online access to the TMW conference and networking events together with priority access to the music festival events as well as access to the TMW PRO digital platform. DigiPRO Pass is on sale for 50 euros. Additional info:

TMW 2021 is organised by Shiftworks with various partners and co-organisers. The conference programme is completed in collaboration with the Estonian music export and development office Music Estonia. The whole programme will be revealed gradually during August and September.

The presenter of TMW is Telia, the strategic partner in the field of music is Music Estonia, the main supporters are Nordic Hotel Forum and Visit Estonia. The partners are Telliskivi Creative City and Viru Center, media partners are Postimees Group and Radio 2.

The festival is supported by the Ministry of Culture, the city of Tallinn, the Tallinn City Enterprise Department and the Cultural Endowment.

TMW’s international activities, the aim of which is to introduce Estonia as an attractive destination of music and culture, are supported by the European Regional Development Fund.

Press photo of Toomas Hendrik Ilves 

TMW 2021 conference speakers

Additional information