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36 String Kantele

World Music Instrument: Kantele

Sing the song of Kantele!

The kantele belongs to a large family of string instruments called zithers. Zithers have a resonating body with a variable number of strings, which can be plucked, strummed, struck, or bowed. In the case of the kantele, the strings are plucked or strummed and the smallest kanteles can be held in the player’s lap. The kantele is the national instrument of Finland. Finnish folk poetry recounts that the first kantele was made from the jaw bones of fish and the hair of young maidens. When the first kantele was played, the sound was so beautiful that all living things started to cry. Their tears rolled into the ocean, and when they touched the sea they turned into beautiful blue pearls.

This article is one in a series of reports on the fascinating variety of musical instruments that audience members encounter through Center for World Music programs. 

There are kanteles of many sizes: 5-string, 10-string, 11-string, all the way up to the 36-string concert kantele, as seen above.

My favorite instrument is the 5-string kantele. It is a very soulful and humble instrument. It teaches you to quiet your mind and allow the kantele to sing its stories–stories of hard winters and beautiful summer nights, stories of a resilient northern nation who fought hard for its independence.

 

You play the 5-string kantele by plucking the strings to create melodies. You can also strum chords by muting the strings that don’t belong to the chord. The strings of this small kantele are tuned to the first five pitches of the major or minor scale.

Larin Paraske, one of the great rune singers of Finland

Larin Paraske, one of the great rune singers of Finland.

The 5-string kantele is often taught in Finnish schools as the first instrument for young children. It encourages creativity, as it is easy to learn improvisation with this instrument. Children find the kantele fun because they experience the joy of playing together as a group. You do not have to be a Finn to appreciate and learn kantele.

Merja with her daughter and two other children

Merja, with her daughter, and two children.

I am a first-generation Finnish immigrant now living in the US, and for me, the kantele and Finnish music are the bridge that connects the two distant worlds.

2016 Christmas Revels – Northlands

2016 Christmas Revels – Northlands

When I close my eyes and let my fingers move across the strings of the kantele, I remember—I remember the Finnish spirit that is in me. The spirit that says keep going and never give up. All the while, singing the song of life through all the difficulties. Sing the song of the kantele!

Learn more about Merja at merjasoria.com. View a “vintage video” of Merja performing on a 10-string kantele soon after her arrival in the United States.

Merja Soria is a performer and teacher of Finnish folk music and a Center for World Music teaching artist.

World Music Instrument: The Tin Whistle

We continue our series of reports on the fascinating variety of world music instruments with an article about the tin whistle by Jonathan Parker, program director for the World Music in the Schools program.

An instrument with an ancient and enduring history, the tin whistle (or penny whistle) is one of the most misunderstood and maligned of wind instruments. Often mistaken for a toy, this flute is, in capable hands, one of the most expressive and delightful of traditional musical instruments.

Originally made from a hollow bone, such as that of a bird’s wing, the tin whistle is a type of instrument known as a fipple flute, and is identical to the flageolet in its earliest form. As its name implies, it later came to be made of tin, and was first mass-produced in this form by Robert Clarke around 1840. Examples of bone whistles dating from the 12th century have been unearthed in High Street, Dublin, Ireland.

Whistle assortment The tin whistle is, in physical terms, one of the simplest of instruments. The mouthpiece has a narrow windway, an opening or “window” cut in to the side of the instrument, and a sharp edge over which the player’s breath passes. The instrument has six front fingerholes and no thumbhole, distinguishing it from the recorder. The bore was often conical in older instruments (typified by the English-made Clarke tin whistle), while many modern whistles have a cylindrical tube and a plastic mouthpiece replacing the older wooden or lead plug. In recent decades, this instrument has been made from a wide variety of materials, including exotic woods, PVC plastic, aluminum, brass, composite materials, and even sterling silver.

Whistle mouthpiecesPlayers of the tin whistle range from the 17th Century English diarist Samuel Pepys, who wrote of his delight in playing the “flagilette,” to the great modern Irish flautist James Galway. Many Irish flute players and uilleann pipers have played the tin whistle as a secondary instrument, including Willie Clancy, Paddy Moloney, Joanie Madden, Liam O’Flynn, Michael McGoldrick, and Mick O’Brien. Among the best-known contemporary players of the Irish tin whistle are Cathal McConnell, Mary Bergin, and Brid O’Donohue.

Deceptive in its simplicity, the tin whistle is one of the most accessible and portable of instruments, and one of the grandest in character.

Video Links:
Mary Bergin plays two jigs, Tom Billy’s and the Langstern Pony
Liam O’Flynn performs the slow air Sliabh na mBan

Jonathan Parkerthe World Music in the Schools program director for the Center for World Music, has played the tin whistle since 1980.

This article appeared in slightly different form in the July 1990 issue of the San Diego Folk Heritage journal Folk Notes.

World Music Instrument: The Swedish Säckpipa

We continue our series of reports on the fascinating variety of world music instruments with an article by Jonathan Parker.

15th century bagpipe painting in Härkeberga Church (photo Olle Gällmo)

15th century bagpipe painting in Härkeberga Church

When we think of bagpipes, most of us envision the Scottish Great Highland warpipes played by brawny, kilted men with red moustaches, marching in echelon. Indeed, the Highland pipes are known the world over, due to the regiments of Scots sent throughout the British empire in the 19th and early 20th centuries. What few people recognize is that this instrument is only one of a very large family of musical instruments, played in dozens of countries. There are bagpipes from India, Persia, Bulgaria, North Africa, Russia, Italy, France, England, Ireland, Spain, Estonia, Poland, and Germany, to name a few. Many countries even have several; France has at least ten, and Scotland has no less than three distinctly different types. Altogether more than one hundred kinds of bagpipes exist, each with its own performance tradition and repertoire.

Today we’ll take a look at one of the farthest-flung of these, the Swedish säckpipa. As with many varieties of bagpipe, this humble instrument was played largely in the rural parts of the country. One early depiction of a bagpipe in Sweden is from around 1480, in a painting by Albertus Pictor in Härkeberga church in Uppland, although the form of the instrument he depicted suggests that its origin may be different from the surviving historical examples of the säckpipa. Also played for dancing, the säckpipa harmonizes well with the fiddle, but it was usually played as a solo instrument. It is mouth blown, having but one drone and a chanter with a compass of eight notes. Known in different parts of Sweden as dråmba, koppe, posu, or bälgpipa, its sound is quite sweet and about the same volume as a fiddle, making it an agreeable indoor instrument.

Säckpipa made by Leif Eriksson (drawing Paul Johnson)

Säckpipa made by Leif Eriksson

Instrument makers constructed the pipes from birch wood, with a calfskin bag, and sparingly decorated it with hand-carved ornaments. The reeds were made from Phragmites australis, the common pond reed, harvested in the winter and chopped out of the ice. Some early examples also have a second “dummy” drone, which is not drilled and has no reed. The säckpipa seems to be most closely related to the Eastern European bagpipes of Bulgaria and Macedonia, with a cylindrical chanter bore and reeds of the single blade type. This should not be too surprising, considering that Scandinavians traded, battled, and marauded all the way down to Constantinople, in what is now Turkey.

The säckpipa has recently undergone a rebirth, having been taken up by many young musicians over the last few decades. The last piper, or pösuspelman, in an unbroken tradition was Gudmunds Nils Larsson of llbäcken in Dala-Järna, who died in 1949. Fiddler Per Gudmundson, at the urging of Gunnar Ternhag of the Dalarnas Museum in Falun, decided in 1981 to reconstruct the instrument and its musical repertoire. Woodworker Leif Eriksson was asked to help, and he and Gudmundson replicated the instrument based on examples found in museum collections. Together they worked out the details, and built a working set of pipes. Per went on to research the available written and recorded music, taught himself to play the instrument, and recorded an album in 1983 which has become a classic volume, Per Gudmundson: Säckpipa. This LP was rereleased in CD format in August 2015 on Caprice Records.

The author and his pipes (drawing Paul Johnson)

The author and his pipes

Since its revival in 1981, a number of other makers have begun building this instrument, and there are now hundreds of active players in many countries. For more information about this instrument and how it has developed since this revival, visit Olle Gällmo’s säckpipa website.

Video links: Polska Efter Nedergårds Lars, solo säckpipa | Polska Från Säfsnäs, fiddle and säckpipa

— Jonathan Parker is the World Music in the Schools program director for the Center for World Music, and has played the säckpipa since 1986. Illustrations are by Paul Johnson; Olle Gällmo provided the photo from Härkeberga church and other valuable support.

This article appeared in slightly different form in the September 1990 issue of the San Diego Folk Heritage journal Folk Notes.

Happy Traum

Legendary Folk Musician Happy Traum in Poway, Jan 30

A Presentation of San Diego Folk Heritage

Happy Traum, with Chris Clarke

Friday, January 30, 2015  • 7:30 pm
Templar’s Hall
14134 Midland Road
Poway, CA 92064

Admission: $18 (SDFH members $15)

For details, including Guitar Workshop with Happy Traum on Sunday, February 1, see the San Diego Folk Heritage website.

HappyTraum.com

Galloway Folk Music

Musicians ‘singing back to life’ forgotten Galloway folk music

Some 80 traditional musical arrangements sourced from across Scotland in the early 20th century have been discovered, and contemporary musicians are breathing new life into them . . .

 “It’s something that’s really important to me, to encourage people to sing and to bring these local songs to life so they’re not lost,” said [musician Robyn] Stapleton.

“We have got some fantastic songs that I have been working on personally and I am looking forward to be able to perform songs that people haven’t heard before.

BBC South Scotland

Events

Irish Music Session

Traditional Irish Music Session

Come and join us at the pub for an evening of traditional Irish dance music!  The session will be hosted by musicians Michael Eskin and George Rubsamen, and we expect some fine musicians to drop in and participate.

No entrance fee or cover charge.

Here’s a flyer for this event.

 

SD Commission for Arts and Culture


Gone Tomorrow

Gone Tomorrow: Music of Appalachia

The 2016 SDSU-CWM World Music Series

Gone Tomorrow: Music of Appalachia

San Diego’s finest bluegrass band, Gone Tomorrow plays hard-driving bluegrass music, plus a wide variety of Texas swing, old-time, and early country music. The name of the band says it all, and true-to-form there have been a number of personnel changes as musicians come and go. The latest incarnation of Gone Tomorrow includes some of San Diego’s best veteran bluegrass performers

Admission: $15 general/$12 students (advance purchase or at the door)

More on Gone Tomorrow.

Cosponsored by the SDSU School of Music and Dance and the Center for World Music.

Directions: SDSU Parking Map and Instructions.

 

SD Commission for Arts and Culture


Gone Tomorrow

Gone Tomorrow: Music of Appalachia

The 2017 SDSU-CWM World Music Series

Gone Tomorrow: Music of Appalachia

San Diego’s finest bluegrass band, Gone Tomorrow plays hard-driving bluegrass music, plus a wide variety of Texas swing, old-time, and early country music. The name of the band says it all, and true-to-form there have been a number of personnel changes as musicians come and go. The latest incarnation of Gone Tomorrow includes some of San Diego’s best veteran bluegrass performers

Admission: $15 general/$12 students (advance purchase or at the door)

More on Gone Tomorrow.

Cosponsored by the SDSU School of Music and Dance and the Center for World Music.

Directions: SDSU Parking Map and Instructions.

 

SD Commission for Arts and Culture


Natasha Kozaily

Outdoor Summer Music Series: Caribbean Inspiration

This is the first concert of The Outdoor Summer Music Series, presenting music from world destinations in relaxed outdoor settings.This Series concludes on June 17th in celebration of World Make Music Day (Fête de la Musique) with an outdoor workshop and concert at Balboa Park with San Diego-based Choro Sotaque playing vintage Brazilian jazz.

Join the Center for World Music for a free and relaxed performance of music and stories from around the Caribbean. Let the ocean breeze cool your skin while music inspired by the Cayman Islands soothes your ears.

Natasha Kozaily is a third culture kid from the Cayman Islands, with Lebanese roots, now residing in San Diego, California. She will be performing a collection of original tunes and folk songs and stories from around the Caribbean. Discover more at www.natashakozaily.com.

This free concert is at the quaint East Plaza Gazebo of Seaport Village. Nestled away on the east side of Seaport Village, the white gazebo and courtyard are ideal for a relaxing concert experience. Bring a chair or grab one of the picnic tables in the courtyard.

Download the 2017 Summer Outdoor Music Series flyer.

Getting to Seaport Village
For detailed information please visit the Seaport Village website.

Public Transportation
Seaport Village is across the street from the Seaport Village trolley stop, and a short walk from the Sante Fe Train Depot serviced by Amtrak and the San Diego Metro Coaster.

Parking
Enter from Kettner Blvd. and turn left into the East Plaza Parking Lot. Parking is $5 for 2 hrs with a purchase of $10 or more. Without a $10 purchase, parking is $8/hour. Get more details here.

Walking to the East Gazebo

Enjoy your stroll through the village towards Busters Beach House. You will see the white gazebo and courtyard directly in front of the restaurant. Here is a helpful Seaport Village map.

Financial support provided by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture.

SD Commission for Arts and Culture

Virtual Encounters: The Regional Music of Mexico Featuring Hermanos Herrera

This presentation is the second of six programs in the Center for World Music’s Spring 2021 Virtual Encounters with World Music and Dance series.

The Regional Music of Mexico

Featuring Hermanos Herrera with Ethnomusicologist Tim Rice
January 31, 2:00 pm
Free Live Stream – View the Recorded Stream

This 50-minute live-hosted music and discussion event will explore the human experience as expressed through three styles of Mexican regional music. Hermanos Herrera, along with Dr. Rice, will explore the lived meanings of son jarochoson huasteco, and accordion-based norteño music, from northern Mexico. They will discuss each genre’s history as well as the stylistic differences among them. They will also tell the story of how they came to dedicate themselves to performing these particular styles. After each prerecorded performance segment, the group, with instruments in hand, will answer any questions you may have about a particular instrument, music style, and the personal and social significance of their music. Bring your dancing shoes and your questions for what promises to be a fun-filled and music-filled presentation!

Registration is free. A link to the live stream will be provided in your confirmation email. If you’d like to support the artists and the program, donations will be welcomed.

Hermanos Herrera will be addressing questions from the audience. Guests are invited to log into YouTube to comment and ask questions of the artist.

About Hermanos Herrera

Hermanos Herrera consists of five brothers and their younger sister. They play various styles of traditional Mexican music, including son huasteco, son jarocho, and musica norteña. The group performs with an aggressive and energetic style that is both passionate and exhilarating.

United by blood and love of their art, Hermanos Herrera see themselves as creating the future of regional Mexican music. Third-generation Mexican-Americans, they grew up in a family of musicians in Filmore, California. Motivated by their family’s devotion to traditional music, the siblings made frequent trips to Mexico, immersing themselves in a quarter-century of mentorship with preeminent performers of son huasteco and son jarocho, two favorite forms of Mexico’s rich musical heritage. They bring youthful energy, authenticity, and a contemporary twist to their presentation of traditional musical styles while striving to be dedicated representatives of Mexico’s rich musical landscape.

Hermanos Herrera has six recordings under the Sonbros Records label and one album released by Smithsonian Folkways. They launched their latest releases in the Spring and Fall of 2020. Their most recent musica norteña and son huasteco recordings received substantial radio play in both the U.S. and Mexico, with one of the singles reaching number one in various markets. For being ambassadors of son huateco, the group was awarded the “Sol Poniente” Lifetime Achievement Award in Veracruz, Mexico.

Hermanos Herrera has shared their music with a broad audience, performing throughout the U.S. and Mexico. Under the Smithsonian Folkways Record label, they performed at National Folk Festivals in North Carolina and Butte Montana. Recently, two consecutive performances by the group at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles were sold out.

In addition to their musical accomplishments, Hermanos Herrera has maintained an active presence in their home community of Filmore. Their music has raised over $120,000 for local charities and has assisted in numerous fundraising and community service events, educating children and helping those in need. 

For more info, visit: http://www.hermanosherrera.com/

Watch Smithsonian videos: Hermanos Herrera on Family and Music | “Anoche Estuve Ilorando” by Hermanos Herrera

Download the Music and Discussion Flyer and Program.

Concert Series Sponsor

Rice and Haeling Development Group Logo

Concert SponsorKat Heldman Logo

Grant Support

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Maniucha & Ksawery

Maniucha & Ksawery – Endangered Traditional Songs of Ukraine with Jazz Improvisation

The Center for World Music will cross-stream one concert of THE GREAT IMPROVISION series, presented by the JAZZTOPAD FESTIVAL in partnership with POLISH CULTURAL INSTITUTE NEW YORK. 

MANIUCHA & KSAWERY

LIVE CROSS-STREAM from National Forum of Music in Wrocław, Poland
Sunday, April 11 at 11 AM PDT / 2 PM EDT / 8 PM CET

Maniucha & Ksawery are a vocal and bass duo drawing inspiration from the deep-rooted yet endangered traditional songs of the vast Polesie region in Ukraine. Their compositions combine jazz improvisation with songs of spring, harvest, weddings, lullabies and love, to create a narrative of the cycles of nature and human life.

Watch the free live stream on April 11 at 11 AM PDT on the Center for World Music Facebook page. Or watch YouTube. Refresh your browser if you do not see the live stream start at 11AM. 

YouTube Logo

Live streaming is also available at Polish Music Center USC Thornton School of Music and Center for Traditional Music and Dance.

About Maniucha & Ksawery

Maniucha & Ksawery

Maniucha & Ksawery is a duo that draws on the deep-rooted yet endangered traditional songs of the vast Polissya region in Ukraine. Their compositions combine jazz improvisation with songs of spring, harvest, weddings, lullabies and love to create a narrative of the cycles of nature and human life. Vocalist Maniucha Bikont is known for her long-term involvement in both traditional and experimental fields and has spent many years traveling to meet and learn from old singers in the Ukranian villages. Double bass virtuoso Ksawery Wójciński’s spectrum of musical genres reaches from early music to contemporary improvised music. Together Maniucha & Ksawery produce vibrant and adventurous tone-poems out of their minimal instrumentation, as heard on their debut album, Oj Borom, Borom, recorded thanks to the Polish National Radio Award and the support of their fans. Maniucha & Ksawery enjoy performing in cozy intimate spaces (small stages, backyards, countryside barns) as well as acoustically refined concert halls. During their concerts, they not only sing and play music but also recall the stories and fables connected with their repertoire.

Ksawery Wójciński is a double-bass player, composer, and musician with extraordinary sensitivity and daring for experiments. His spectrum of musical genres reaches from early music to the most refined contemporary improvised music. He collaborated with musicians such as: Charles Gayle, Uri Caine, Mikołaj Trzaska, Michael Zerang, Satoko Fuji, Nicolle Mitchell, Tim Sparks, Klaus Kugel, Ken Vandermark, Mats Gustafsson, Gaba Kulka, Robert Rasz, Wacław Zimpel, Paweł Postaremczak, Raphael Roginski. He is a co-founder of ensembles such as Emergency and Hera.

Maniucha Bikont is a vocalist, musician, anthropologist. She conducted a number of field recordings in Poland, Ukraine, and Russia. Maniucha is a member of music and theatre groups dealing with traditional music, rituals, improvisation, and unconventional vocal techniques such as Dziczka, Z Lasu, Niewte, Gęba, and Tęgie Chłopy (where she sings and plays the tuba). She collaborates with Janusz Prusinowski Kompania and other Polish groups performing traditional music in crudo as well as jazz and avant-garde musicians like Ksawery Wójciński, Assaf Talmudi, Shay Tsabari, Rafael Rogiński, Ilia Saytanov.

About The Great Improvisation

Jazztopad Festival, in partnership with Polish Cultural Institute New York presents The Great Improvisation series live-streamed from the National Forum of Music (NFM) in Wrocław, Poland. The series presents various faces of jazz – from bold avant-garde and daring improvisation through to the mainstream. The ideal acoustics of the NFM halls provide a perfect environment for both young Polish bands as well as established artists. The series has presented such musicians as Wynton Marsalis, Bobo Stenson, Gregory Porter, Tomasz Stańko, Kuba Więcek, Brad Mehldau, and Dianne Reeves.

The Polish jazz scene has been a strongly recognizable brand in the world, both in terms of the quality of festivals and the craft of artists. Jazztopad Festival has been running for the past 17 years under the umbrella of the National Forum of Music. Jazztopad’s most distinctive feature is its commitment to commissioning new music and presenting special projects tailored for the festival. As the only Polish festival, Jazztopad has built relationships with the most important jazz centers in the world, supporting the promotion of Polish improvised music and cultural exchange for many years. Since 2015 Jazztopad has had annual editions in New York.

The Great Improvisation online series is presented by Jazztopad Festival and National Forum of Music, in partnership with the Polish Cultural Institute New York. This concert is presented in collaboration with  Lincoln Center and Polish Music Center USC Thornton School of Music.

All concerts will also live stream on the websites and social media channels of the National Forum of Music, Jazztopad Festival, and Polish Cultural Institute New York.