World Music Tradition

Kantele Kantele is a traditional folk music instrument of Finnic people inhabiting Finland, North West region of Russia and some of the Baltic states. The Kantele proper is a traditional instrument of Suomi, Karjala, Vadja, Isora, Vepsad, Lappi people. Among Estonians similar type of instrument is called Kannel. The same word is usually applied for traditional instrument of Setu people. Among local group of Russians inhabiting areas closely related to Finnic cultural tradition similar instrument existed up to 19th century and was sometimes called Gusli. Very close to this tradition are musical instruments of Baltic people. Lithuanian Kañkles and Latvian Kuokle shear the similar construction and playing technique. There are many different local names for this instrument. Among Karelians it was sometimes called kantervo, or kandala, or kanteleh. Lappians called it gan’del, but the instrument, its construction, playing technique and associated cultural tradition remained basically the same. In general one may speak of a common cultural tradition where the same type of musical instruments is widespread. This region covers Finland, North West of Russia and the Baltic States. There is even a generic term to reflect the fact that instruments of this tradition have a lot in common. This totality of musical instruments is often denoted by the term Baltic Psalterium, covering the whole variety of local types and names.

Kantele is one of the central objects of Kalevala runes (Finnish and Karelian epic tales). According to Kalevala the first Kantele was made by Väinämõinen (the central character of Kalevala epic) himself. It is difficult to speak of ancient origins of the instrument because an information on this subject is either unreliable or controversial. The earliest known instruments are dated by the end of 17th century but this only means that the Kantele tradition was originated long before this date. There are also no evidences that this instrument was borrowed from any other cultural traditions on contrary there are no grounds to suppose that Kantele was not originated locally and at quite an early times. Traditional Kantele were very much in use up to the end of the first half of 20th century. It was customary for every adult man to have a Kantele of his own. From the second half of 19th century traditional Kantele becoming replaced by modernised varieties of the instrument.

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