A kantele (or kannel) is a traditional Finnish plucked string instrument. The oldest forms of kantele have 5 to 15 strings and a wooden carved body. Modern concert kanteles can have up to 39 strings. The Finnish kantele has diatonic tuning (C major or like the white keys of piano) and concert versions have a switch mechanism for making sharps and B-flats. Players hold the kantele in their laps or on a small table. There are two main techniques to play, either plucking the strings with their fingers or strumming unstopped strings (sometimes with a matchstick ).
There have been strong developments for the kantele in Finland lately; for instance, an electric kantele has been made. Education for playing the instrument starts in schools and music institutes up to conservatories and the Sibelius Academy, the only music university in Finland. Even some artistic doctoral studies are being made at the Academy with traditional, western classical and electronic music.
In The Kalevala (Finland's national epic), the magician Väinämöinen invents the first kantele with the jawbone of a giant pike and a few hairs from Hiisi's gelding. The music it makes draws all the forest creatures near to wonder at its beauty. The kantele has a distinctive bell-like sound. Around the Baltic, its near relatives are the Kokle (Latvia) the Kankles (Lithuania), Kannel (Estonia) and Gusli (Russia). Also the Arabic instrument Qanun has the same characteristics.