Love defeats all.
The transformations of Lenna Kuurmaa have happened right in front of our eyes, first she grew from a Vanilla Ninja girl to one of the most professionally respected singers of Estonia and now time is ripe for new adventures. Lenna has become a devoted mother.
In the world of pop music, there is a hint of fatality attached to the age 27. It’s at that age that several talented but wild musicians have bit the bullet. Like for example, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain or Amy Winehouse. For Lenna Kuurmaa, one of Estonia’s most important singers, reaching the age of 27 has also been significant. It is the age at which big things are happening. But Lenna’s choices have brought her to the exactly opposite point. Instead of destroying life, she has chosen to create one…
Laughter and tears. The home that Lenna bought six years ago is about a quarter hour drive from the city centre. A complex of Stalinist buildings and the floating snow of popular blossoms leaves the impression of a small St. Petersburg. While fussing about her smiling daughter at the changing table, Lenna radiates pure and calm happiness. You can’t fake happiness.
„When she first laughed like this with her voice, Robi and I both had tears in our eyes“ says Lenna heartfelty. Tiny Ami is lovely. This rather unknown name Lenna pronounces with an emphasis on the “i”. Like a wizard of good mood, Ami is looking around with a piercing gaze, her dark tuft of hair twisted into a hawk like a tiny punk. To the question, probably asked for the one hundred and tenth time, who does the baby look like, Lenna replies „Maybe a little bit more like Robi, but you can’t really tell.“
As is suitable for the progeny of musicians, the daughter of Lenna and her guitarist partner Robert Vaigla, Ami was born on the second of March, the same day that the most important event of the Estonian music year, the final of Eesti Laul, was taking place. The birth, which began like any other, took a sudden turn. The contractions had lasted for some time until the midwife noticed something suspicious. Within seconds the hospital room was filled with action. Robert looked helplessly at the goings on from the side. „It was like Chicago Hope,“ he says. „We both were shocked. Like, what is happening now? I was chilled to the bone. “
The man understood it was actually nothing serious when the midwife, rushing towards the hospital room, shouted at him to grab his photo camera. Seven – eight minutes later it was all over and the fresh citizen took the first breath in her life.
„As I came out from the anaesthesia, I was a state of complete panic.“ remembers Lenna. „I understood nothing. I had tears in my eyes and I was crying. Then I heard the cries of a child and saw fuzzily that Robi was standing on the other side of the room, with an infant in his arms. I was rolled over in the bed and the doctors said „Congratulations, congratulations!“. Then I realised everything was probably alright.“
Yet, for Lenna the dramatic tone of the birth was an exception on the road of becoming a mother. Both fresh parents describe the time of pregnancy as well as the first months of the baby’s life as a natural flow. „Robi and I have taken it all very calmly, adapting hasn’t been hard at all.“ says Lenna.
First steps. A part of this is definitely because the arrival of the child into Lenna’s life happened exactly when the time was right. Lenna remembers: „When I turned 26, it hit me that should it happen now, I would be ready. It was a clear understanding. I started looking at little children differently and noticed pregnant women and child carriages. “
But it was still a surprise that it would happen so suddenly. It seems that especially for Robert. „We had talked about it before, but when I came out of the bathroom with the test, then Robi was like: ee… really? Maybe you should visit the doctor too? I was naturally very happy, but still slightly frightened.“ Lenna laughs.
Now their world centres on Ami. As both are freelance musicians, that don’t have to stay at work from 9 to 17, they can take care of the child together. “I am very happy how Robi behaves so naturally with the child. None of us have learned this but we all have this innate ability and it shows when necessary.”
The rare exception when Ami was left under the care of a third person was symbolically Mother’s day when Lenna had her first big performance after the birth. Right at that day Robert became seriously ill. So much, that he went out of the way to his parents’ house, to avoid infecting Ami. Thus Ami was strolled through the old town by her grandmother, while Lenna was trying to focus on her performance. „I was completely exhausted.“ Lenna explains: „I was sweaty all over thinking whether Ami was alright. But these are the things you have to go through the first time you become a mother.“
Doesn’t shirk from work. Lenna admits that stage is not currently the place she longs for. Not that she has completely abandoned her work, you can still see her perform from time to time, but she does it as little as possible. „Yes, my work is further from me for now. I have made this decision.“ admits the singer.
Lenna could not even fathom that the situation would turn out like this. „First I was sure that I wouldn’t change much in my life, but once the baby was born, I understood that it couldn’t continue quite like this. I’d prefer to spend time with Ami and enjoy it.“
As Lenna has been in the scene for nearly 10 years, this has given her enough self-assurance not to worry how this small break might affect her singing career. „I doubt I’ll miss anything, if I take a year or so easy.“ believes Lenna. This does not mean that she devotes herself entirely to the hearth of the home. Even now Lenna’s’ band is going through rehearsals for a new album.
Mihkel Raud, who hadn’t written much music since the days of Mr. Lawrence, created a small workshop, which he returned from with a lot of new songs. Additionally, the album will contain some songs by Lenna and Robi. „It’s pretty funny, that we have known each other so long, but we have never created anything together.“ says Robert. “But now we have a kind of good symbiosis. I make the base and Lenna invents the melody and words. It’s pretty nifty!”
If everything goes all right, the album will be finished by the end of the year. But who can tell! Lenna has trouble even now, writing lyrics to existing songs. Instead, her thoughts are on raising of a girl. Amongst other things, she asks herself what kind of values and attitude towards life she is passing on to her child.
Like for example thanks to her mother who is a doctor, taking care of health is very important to Lenna. That’s the reason she thinks it’s important that the childhood of young Ami is not spent in the virtual world, that she would instead spend as much time outdoors as possible. “When I was small, we played outside a lot. Didn’t matter what the weather was, we were still outside. I was raised this way and we want to do the same with Ami.” says Lenna.
Secondly, nature is very important to Lenna: “I have a great respect towards nature. My grandmother had a big garden, where I spent a lot of my time as a child. There were a lot of flowers and plants. I still recognize different flower sorts.” Being in nature is so important to Lenna, that they are considering moving to the countryside before putting Ami into a kindergarten. Naturally they are talking about Setumaa.
Under the sky of Setumaa. For many days straight now, a few kilometres from the Russian border, the furthest corner of Estonia has been in the grip of suffocating heat. The first drop of rain falls on the nose the moment we come up to Lenna and Robert’s yellow house. We rush to the spacious living room whilst everything around booms and thunders. The lightning seems to circle the house and sometimes comes so close that the glasses shake. Lenna shuts off the electricity. There’s no reason to take risks. Small Ami is peace herself in the arms of her father. Lenna calls out: “What are you doing?” and Robi replies “Just nessing.” Such invented cute words are currently the basic vocabulary in this family.
It’s nice and cosy indoors. Although there is a lot of work to do in this old and rather dilapidated farm complex bought three years ago, the beginning has been quite swift. The first floor has been furnished with noble floorboards. In the living room a great dining table and comfortable huge sofas take up space.
Here, in Setumaa, exactly a year ago Lenna and Robi found the name for their future daughter. Lenna introduces the history of finding the name: “It was a summer day and we knew that we were pregnant. We went through the name calendar to see whose name day it was. That day had a lot of a-letter names and one was Ami. We found it quite interesting, we had never heard of it.”
It seems last year’s spring/summer was generally a good and happy time for Lenna, a time to end the period of confusion and restlessness. Including that, what involves her relations with Robert. No point denying, the fact that Lenna would have a child with him was a surprise to many. As much as we knew of Lenna’s private life via media, the paths of Robert and her had split years ago. Instead there were many assumptions about the men with whom the singer had become involved with.
“We had been in an on/off relationship for a long time.” explains Lenna. ”If we look at the period of time that I have kept returning home to the same man, then that makes about 10 years. Despite everything, we have had a very strong connection and have been always finally finding a common path and haven’t managed without each other.” Lenna is amused that already so long ago Robi quipped in company that Lenna was the mother of his future children. “I used to think, what are you talking about, but look at it now – everything goes the way it has to.”
They were both 17 when their relationship began. Robert remembers that it happened in what is currently Rock Café. The night they met there was a youth band event, where Robi was performing and Lenna along with Maarja Kivi were attending. But as it was in that period of time that Vanilla Ninjas rise to stardom began, the girl had to go away to Germany, and while making albums with the band and going on tour, she spent most of the following years abroad.
Lenna does not regret that instead of being together they lived separate lives. “It was then that I understood that it’s not better anywhere else. It’s a common thought, that somehwere there is a better man who understands more and so on. But honestly,now I could not think of anything better than what I’ve got.” admits Lenna with moving sincerity.
Onwards with a clear head. Lenna’s life is in admirable balance in other aspects as well. If just a year or a year and a half ago she could not decide whether to be in Estonia or to go on an adventure around the world, whether to focus on music or make more movies, then now her doubts are over. “It’s much clearer to me now, where I want to be and what I want to do. It seems to me that a very interesting stage has just begun. I am surrounded by a harmonic environment and I can discover new things in this environment and with these people. I am captivated by the thought that I don’t know what happens next. Like for example, whether we move to Setumaa, or stay in the city. That, what is left behind, I won’t miss. That, what lies ahead, seems a lot more exciting.”
Lenna knows that everything that is important remains in her life and that she won’t be missing out in life because of the child. She wants to continue acting in movies and recording albums. She also dreams of getting the house in Setumaa fixed up well enough to live there without worries. And one more thing. Lenna admits that: “As I have such good memories from my first pregnancy and the first months of Ami’s life, I have thought of having two more children. Why not!” Whilst admitting this, she has a face like a kid, who has done something naughty in company. A little shocked of her courage, but happy as well.
The thunder has ended for the day and the air is sweet in its clarity. It’s time for one last swim in the nearby lake and pack the family on the car. Lenna puts her hair up and goes for a swim. On the nape of her neck, right underneath her hairline, flashes the dark written tattoo: Amor vincit omnia. Love defeats all. One can be sure, that this thought, that has accompanied Lenna in her choices, fixed in skin, shall be passed on for life to little Ami.