Jaak Joala

From Unearthing The Music

Jaak Joala performing in Tallinn in 1974. Photo by Jaan Künnap

Jaak Joala (26 June 1950 – 25 September 2014) was an Estonian singer, musician and a member of two bands: Kristallid and Virmalised. He began as a flautist, later adding singing and bass guitar.


Early life

Jaak Joala was born in Viljandi, Estonia and grew up in Tallinn. His mother, Helgi Ridamäe, was a music teacher at various schools in Tallinn. His father, Arno Joala, was a musician who was later also known as a healer. When Jaak turned seven years old, he took piano lessons and in adolescence, at his parents' request, also began taking flute lessons.[1] Due to his parents' love of music, he was often taken to symphony and chamber music concerts and opera performances.


Considered a music legend by some,[2], Joala began his musical career with the beat group Kristallid (English: The Crystals) in 1966 as a flautist, then as a singer and bassist after Toivo Und left the band. In 1968, he became the bassist and lead singer for the popular group Virmalised (English: Northern Lights). With Virmalised, he sang several of Toivo Kurmet's songs: Ainult sul (Only You Have), Ma ei tea, miks (I Don't Know Why), Naer (Laughter), Taas on päev (Once Again The Day) and Üksinda (Alone). Joala introduced western rock music to Estonian and Soviet audiences by singing in his native language.[3] He spent his millitary service in Tallinn as part of the military orchestra, which allowed him to keep performing and recording.

Between 1978 and 1983 he was a part of the band Radar. In the 1980s, he earned the nickname "Kremlin's Nightingale" because he often performed and recorded in Russia, and a large part of his repertoire, comprising songs written by such great composers as Raimonds Pauls, David Tukhmanov and Alexander Zatsepin, at that time was sung in Russian.[4] Despite his huge popularity, his creative independence sometimes got him in trouble with authorities, and he was banned from performing for a year in 1982.

Joala's bandmate Paap Kõlar recounted that eventually Joala grew tired of performing, saying that Goskontsert, the Soviet entertainment agency, demanded that he perform. Kõlar suggested that Joala did not have much choice as to whether to perform or not.[5]

Jaak Joala in 1994. Photo by Jaan Künnap

Later career

In the 1990s, Joala's most well-known projects as a singer were with Kollane Allveelaev G (English: Yellow Submarine G). They performed 1960s music along with Ivo Linna, Karl Madis, Meelis Punder and others. In the middle of the 1990s he performed in joint concerts with Ivo Linna and Tõnis Mägi. The concert tour was informally nicknamed The Three Tenors Tour. After the 1990s Joala devoted his time to teaching, producing and hosting on TV/radio. During the last ten years of his life he was largely reclusive.[1]


He suffered from health problems later in life, having a heart attack in 2005 and another in 2011. Died on 25 September 2014, shortly after being hospitalized due to lung issues, and was buried in the Forest Cemetery of Tallinn.


  • Special Jury Prize (1975) and III Prize (1979) at the Sopot Song Festival in Poland
  • Merited Artist of the Estonian SSR (1980)
  • Order of the White Star, 4th class (2010) - Given by then President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the accolade was refused by Jaak Joala.
  • Contributions to Estonian music award - Posthumously given by the Estonian Association of Phonogram Producers at the gala concert of the Estonian Music Awards on January 15, 2015.


  1. Яак Йоала: Больше не пою Лаванду
  2. "Reet Linna Joalast: väliselt ligipääsmatu, aga tegelikult soe ja sõbralik" [Reet Linna about Joala: externally inaccessible, but in actuality warm and friendly]. Elu24 (in Estonian). 26 September 2014. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
  3. Suri Jaak Joala. Õhtuleht
  4. "Vahur Kersna: ei ole olemas nii kõrget ausammast, kui Jaak Joala vääriks" [Vahur Kersna: There ain't such a high statue as deserved by Jaak Joala]. Delfi Publik (in Estonian). AS Delfi. 26 September 2014. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  5. "Jaak Joala bändikaaslane: Eestis asuti teda taga nõudma siis, kui teda enam polnud…" [Jaak Joala's bandmate: In Estonia they started demanding for him when he wasn't there anymore...]. Defi Publik (in Estonian). Estonia: AS Delfi. 27 September 2014. Retrieved 26 February 2018.

Text partially adapted from Wikipedia.