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National Folk Musician Juhan Uppin

Juhan Uppin

Juhan Uppin is a renowned and beloved musician and folk artist who excels in playing multiple instruments, possesses a deep knowledge of folk music, and accomplishes incredible feats in teaching young musicians as well as managing events and organizations. Juhan carries on the tradition of playing the Estonian diatonic accordion (lõõtspill) and the thumb-picked päkarauakannel, playing on the instruments of several famous masters, including August Teppo and Kalju Sarnit’s diatonic accordions and Aksel Tähnas’s päkarauakannel. Thanks to Juhan, the thumb-picked kannel and Estonian diatonic accordion are increasingly visible and audible both on concert stages and in dance halls.

There seems to be no limit to Juhan’s efforts and achievements in the world of music. In Southern Estonia, following in the footsteps of Estonian diatonic accordion maker August Teppo, the Estonian diatonic accordion players’ competition has been held for decades, where the most skilled musicians are selected and young players are encouraged to continue striving in competitions. The overall winner of the competition is titled “accordion ace” (lõõtsaäss), and a three-time winner is crowned “accordion king” (lõõtsakuningas). Juhan Uppin earned the title of accordion king, a feat accomplished by only five players in total, with honor in 2003.

In 2018, the Estonian Traditional Music Centre began organizing a solo musicians’ competition called National Folk Musician (Vabariigi Pillimees), evaluating not only the contestants’ musical skills but also their performance and overall musicality. It was no surprise that Juhan’s skills had not stagnated, and he earned the title of the first National Folk Musician.

In 2022, Juhan became Estonia’s first doctoral graduate in folk music, defending his doctoral thesis titled “The formation of the traditional playing style of the Teppo type diatonic accordion in the 20th century and creating a traditionally informed performance practice” at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre.

Juhan can be seen performing in several ensembles, including the ensemble “Rüüt,” which is of the same age as Sabatants, as well as the ensemble “Tuulelõõtsutajad,” which has been performing boldly already for over 20 years.

Although Juhan pushes the boundaries of music technique and traditions significantly in both solo and ensemble playing, he always comes to Sabatants to delight dancers with his masterful and soulful solo playing. His playing is confident, nuanced, and truly enjoyable even just to listen to. Juhan’s dance tunes are so infectious that he has achieved a sort of record at Sabatants, being one of two musicians who have consistently delighted dancers since the festival’s second occurrence, making it impossible to imagine the festival without him.

Juhan Uppin – Estonian diatonic accordion (lõõtspill), päkarauakannel


Juhan Uppin on Estonian diatonic accordion (lõõtspill)

Juhan Uppin on thumb-picked kannel by Aksel Tähnas (päkarauakannel)