When my musical inclination led me to find the Finnish national folk instrument, the Kantele (pronounced KON-te-la), I had to have one. It was so exciting when my Kantele arrived, my Autoharp was with a luthier at the time getting some work done, and I had been without an instrument for a couple of weeks. She looked just like the pictures on the Kantele shop, and is made out of pine and birch, two trees common both in Finland and Minnesota.

My lovely 5-string Kantele has been my quiet companion ever since. I play her outside and at home when ever the mood hits me. I had discovered this lovely little folk instrument when I was searching for Autoharp music online.

I found some recordings of the concert Kantele, a 36 string instrument, and was intrigued by the similarity to the Autoharp. Why did I take up the Autoharp in the first place? Maybe the music was in my blood all along. The history of the Kantele delves deep into the mythic poetry collected in the Kalevala, and was used as a tool for Shamans in Finland. Here is a quote from Wikipedia:
In Finland's national epic, Kalevala, the mage Väinämöinen makes the first kantele from the jawbone of a giant pike and a few hairs from Hiisi's stallion. The music it makes draws all the forest creatures near to wonder at its beauty. Later, after losing and greatly grieving over his kantele, Väinämöinen makes another one from a birch, strung with the hair of a willing maiden, and its magic proves equally profound. It is the gift the eternal sage leaves behind when he departs Kaleva at the advent of Christianity.

Here is a video featuring Diane Jarvi playing her 5 string Kantele, also made by Gerry Henkel in his Kantele Shop:

She also wrote a prose poem about the 5 string kantele, and my favorite passage is this:
Big is not a sound you will get from this wooden box. It is more like the threading of sighs, wind over wild grass, a way of coaxing joy from silence, a way of mastering grief. It is the truest song of solitude. But also the reckless tumbling of cool water over heavy stones, the tinkling circlets of sound lifting from a bird nest.
My kantele gives me the feeling of nature under my fingertips. Whether I play it on my lap for myself and my cats, quite and gentle, or on the kitchen table which provides a wonderful resonance, I find myself connecting to my Finnish ancestry. It's as if the sound travels through time and Väinämöinen speaks to me through the harmonics that sound from the strings. My soul is welcomed home again, through the birch and pine of my kantele to the first forests in Finland, so like our own here in my native Minnesota.

As I write this, I have been without my dulcimer for two weeks because I am adding a 1 1/2 fret to it. Once again my kantele has kept me company while I have a favorite instrument with a luthier, and it has sought out the quite places of my heart to remind me of my mother's heritage. I have been going through the book "My Kantele is My Teacher" by Lani K. Thompson to learn the traditional way of playing my lovely five string folk instrument, and learning traditional finnish songs while I'm at it. This music is in my blood, and I love learning more and more about it. I adore history, music, and folk tales and the kantele combines all three for me. It always puts me in my happy place, even when I'm playing in D minor. What could be better?