Seto polyphonic singing tradition, is practised in Southeastern Estonia, and can be found on the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage. It is believed to be about two thousand years old, and it is central to the cultural identity of Seto people. In general, several people are needed to perform a leelo: a lead singer, a choir, and a solo voice singer. Typically, the lead singer sings the verse and then the choir repeats the verse, starting from the last syllable together with the lead singer. In addition to old songs, improvising skills and creating new songs are appreciated within the singing community.
Setos still sing their songs today and pass the tradition on to the next generations. Nowadays, one can hear Seto leelo on national holidays and at important cultural events.
Video-overview presenting Seto leelo as inscribed on the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage
Traditionally, Setos sing in a circle so that they can hear the lead singer and each other. This is a no-performance singing, and women act organically, socializing while they sing.
Men also sing! This is one the favourite men songs. It’s about love.
The women of the Mokornulga leelo choir (Marika Keerpalu, Tiina Süvaorg and Helen Külvik) are singing Seto leelo.
The singing was filmed in the Obinitsa Museum at Setomaa. The name of the song is “There was house in the woods” and it’s a story of a girl who wants to get married.