A moment before the opening of the 25th Estonian Song Festival (2009) at the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds
Gustav Ernesaks (1908 - 1993) was an Estonian composer and a choir onductor. He played an integral role in the Singing Revolution and was one of the father figures of the Estonian Song Festival tradition; one of his songs, set to Lydia Koidula's poem Mu isamaa on minu arm, became an unofficial national anthem during the years of Soviet occupation; ironically, he was also the composer of the Anthem of Estonian SSR used between 1945 and 1990. A statue of him was erected in 2004 on the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds.
The Estonians often like to be described as a singing people – it is an expression of the national identity of the people, which has united them in their struggle for independence both in the early years of the 20th century and during the Soviet occupation. As Janek claimed Songs festivals are a very important part of their culture.