Maarja-Liis Ilus

Maarja-Liis Ilus (1980) is a pop musician and the most known and popular Estonian artist in the whole world with great success in many countries of Europe, South America and Asia. She is better know by her performing name Maarja.

I have to confess that I have been thinking up to the last minute if I had to include to Maarja-Liis in this humble channel of spreading of Estonian music. Now I want to explain this motives to you.

The motives were evident: the artist most known about Estonia and internationally known for all with the best nicest voice and abundant bibliography in english… what does she do in my channel?. Another motive of doubt was the musical style: Maarja has one more music melodic pop similar to other big world artists as Celine Dion or Christina Aguilera for example… probably this style moves away a bit from this channel centred principally on pop-electronic music.

But nowadays already there are many Estonian artists in this channel… for this motive I believe that I would be unjust that was not here the singer number 1!. I hope that the motives have remained clarified because have been late so much of including Maarja here.


With very much respect and precaution I am going to try to summarize Maarja’s professional career. As other artists she began in the world of the music from very young and performed with the Estonian Television children’s choir and she studied eight years of classical piano.

In 1996 there is a very important moment for Maarja and her professional career. She took part in the Eurolaul of 1996 with two songs: “Kummalisel teel”, with Evelin Samuel, Karl Madis and Pearu Paulus came 6th and the song with the veteran singer Ivo Linna (1949) “Kaelakee hääl” -Voice of the necklace- won the festival and could represent Estonia in Eurovision. The song was composer by Priit Pajusaar and lyricist by Kaari Sillamaa. The duo stayed in fifth position in Eurovision 1996 that was celebrated in Oslo. It is not possible to begin better an international career!.

Her first album was released by Aidem Pot Records and only in Estonia and her name is “Maarja-liis”.

On the following year Maarja returned to the Eurolaul with two songs more: “Aeg” with Hanna-Liina Võsa and Anne Värvimann came 7th and  “Keelatud maa” -Forbidden land- won the contest for the second time.

This time Eurovision 1997 was celebrated in Dublin and Maarja (in solitary) stayed in eighth position. The song was composed by Harmo Kallaste and lyricist by Kaari Sillamaa. Though this song remained worse classified that in 1996 in my opinion there is much better this song, impressive song that with Maarja’s sweet voice makes thrill the listener.

Her first international album was released under the label of Universal Music and was a great success in Europe, Asia and South America taking advantage of the success that both previous contests had given her for Europe. Maarja for record the album “First in line” lived one year in Stockholm. It is the golden epoch of Maarja, her success international it is all over the world. The album was realized exclusively in english and the principals singles were accompanied of interesting video clips. Even her principal song “First in line” managed to enter the principal UK charts “Billboard”. Many songs were written and composed by the Swedish musicians Jesper Jelse and Stefan Andersson. Really “First in line” is a happy song encouraged with a refrain that catches the listener… a real great hit and very international. A great campaign of marketing, a video clip, a great tour… all prepared for a great artist!.

With seventeen years her world tour reached Latin America (Peru, Uruguay, Colombia…) where she was very known and her songs were in all the radios, television and clubs. As Maarja said very well…  she is the first international Estonian artist. 

Maarja would also release the same album to Estonian language called “Kaua veel” in 1998 and with this album winning her the Estonian Female Singer of the Year award.


After this album of international projection it seems that Maarja returns to her origins. The following albums only would be released in Japan, Baltic countries or in Estonia.

From the year 2002 Maarja also will do different prominent figures in important musical: Miss Saigon, Cats, Evita, Rent… her nice voice remains perfect in this type of spectacles.

She entered in the festival “Melodifestivalen” in Sweden in 2003 with the song “He is always on my mind” that concerned to her album “City life”. Lamentably the song was eliminated in the first phase of the festival. This album was containing 13 songs all written in English, it was enough successful in the Baltic countries but it was the last one in English of the artist and the last one for the Universal Music AB label.

In 2004 Maarja thought that it would be interesting to return to the Eurolaul. Her song “Homme” written by herself though it was very nice and interesting it stayed in fourth position and could not represent to her country in Eurovision.

Since 2009 Maarja is a judge of the television program “Eesti otsib superstaari” of the Estonian channel TV3. She is the ideal personal to search new artists…  Who does know more than she? and also she appears in Estonian magazines… a Estonian celebrity!.

We wish good luck to Maarja for a new projects!


“Maarja-Liis” (1996) Released in Estonia

“First in Line” (1997) Released in Europe and Asia

“First in line” (1998) Released in Japan

“Heart” (1998) Released in Asia

“City life” (2000) Released in Scandinavia

“Look around” (2005) Released in Estonia

Maarja & Rannap “Läbi jäätund klaasi” (2006) Released in Estonia

“Homme” (2008) Released in Estonia

“Jõuluingel” (2009) Released in Estonia


“Sa ju tead” 

Maarja-Liis Ilus & Ivo Linna “Kaelakee hääl” (video clip)

Maarja-Liis Ilus & Ivo Linna “Kaelakee hääl” Eurovision 1996


“Keelatud maa” Eurolaul 1997


Maarja-Liis Ilus Hanna-Liina V sa Anne V rvimann “Aeg” Eurolaul 1997

Maarja-Liis Ilus “Keelatud maa” Eurovision 1997

“He is always in my mind” Melodifestivalen 2003


Cardinals feat. Maarja “Vikerkaar”

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