ⓘ Kannel (instrument)


ⓘ Kannel (instrument)

Kannel is an Estonian plucked string instrument belonging to the Baltic box zither family known as the Baltic psaltery along with Finnish kantele, Latvian kokles, Lithuanian kankles, and Russian gusli. The Estonian kannel has a variety of traditional tunings. In Estonia, studying the kannel has made a resurgence after some years of decline.


1. Etymology

According to Finnish linguist Eino Nieminen, the name of the instrument, along with the names of most of its neighbouring counterparts, possibly comes from the proto-Baltic form *kantlīs / *kantlēs, which originally meant the singing tree, ultimately deriving from the Proto-European root *kan- to sing, to sound. However, Lithuanian ethnologist Romualdas Apanavicius believes kokles could be derived from the Proto-European root *gandh-, meaning a vessel; a haft of a sword, suggesting that it may be related to the Russian word gusli.


2. History

The kannel became rare in the early 20th century, though surviving in some parts of the Estonian diaspora, until cultural movements under the Soviets encouraged the development and playing of larger chromatic kannels. However, influence from neighboring traditional Finnish kantele players supported the playing of the traditional smaller kannels.


3. Social role

The kannel serves as a national symbol of Estonia; Jakob Hurts 1875-1876 publication of Estonian folksongs was even entitled Vana Kannel "The Old Kannel". The kannel was legendarily played by the Estonian god of song Vanemuine, and the Estonian national epic Kalevipoeg published in the 1850s begins with the line: Laena mulle kannelt, Vanemuine! "Vanemuine, lend me your kannel!".