Estonian blues-rock band Ultima Thule have withdrawn from Eesti Laul 2023, as the band and fans mourn the Nov. 20 death of lead singer and guitarist Riho Sibul, 64.

The band had initially planned to collaborate with fellow rock band Wiiralt on the song “Salalik” (Secretive).

Wiiralt have agreed to stay in the competition on their own, but if they decide to withdraw from the contest, one of two reserve entries will be selected to take their place. The band hopes to honor Sibul’s legacy through their performance.

Wiiralt, who describe their sound as “Cowboy Rock’n’Roll,” cite Sibul and the band among their greatest inspirations. Ultima Thule is regarded as one of the most influential Estonian bands in the 1980s and 90s, with a sound that blends blues rock with their nation’s folk music.

“Thank you for being the soundtrack of our lives,” the band said in a Facebook post about Sibul.

Throughout his life, Sibul played in numerous Estonian rock bands. He started his career with Ultima Thule in 1986 and continued to perform with the band until he passed away. Sibul has also released solo albums, and written music for and collaborated with other artists.

Sibul was awarded the Order of the White Star Class V, a medal that recognizes individuals’ services to the country, in 2001.

Estonian President Alar Karis wrote a heartfelt tribute to Sibul earlier this week: “A great musician has left us, whose footprint in Estonian popular music is immeasurable and whose creation and personal voice have been with many generations of Estonians as a source of joy and support.”

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