Baltic psaltery

Baltic psaltery is a family of related plucked box zithers, psalteries, historically found in the southeast vicinity of the Baltic Sea and played by the Baltic people, Baltic Finns, Volga Finns and northwestern Russians.[1]

9-stringed kanklės of northeastern Aukštaitija
11-stringed Latgale kokles
6-stringed kannel
10-stringed Finnish kantele
11-stringed Karelian kantele


Baltic psalteries include:

The internationally most known instrument of the family is Finnish kantele, so its name is sometimes used in English to also refer to other Baltic psalteries as well. Many of the Baltic psalteries hold a strong symbolic significance in their respective countries, including Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Russia, where playing instruction and instrument makers are available.[2]


According to Finnish linguist Eino Nieminen, the names kanklės, kantele, kannel, kāndla and kokles possibly come from the proto-Baltic form *kantlīs/*kantlēs, which originally meant 'the singing tree',[3][4] ultimately deriving from the Proto-European root *qan- ('to sing, to sound'). However, Lithuanian ethnologist Romualdas Apanavičius believes they could be derived from the Proto-European root *gan(dh)-, meaning 'a vessel; a haft (of a sword)', suggesting that it may be related to the Russian word gusli.[5][6]

The Baltic Psaltery SymposiaEdit

Since 1990 Baltic Psaltery Symposia have taken place in Finland (1990; 1997; 2008), Lithuania (1994; 2017), Latvia (2000), Canada (2004) and Estonia (2013) every three or four years on a rotating basis.[7]


  1. ^ Muktupāvels 2013, pp. 12
  2. ^ Djupsjöbacka, Tove (May 24, 2016). "The kantele – not exclusively Finnish". Finnish Music Quarterly. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  3. ^ Muktupāvels 2013, pp. 12
  4. ^ Williams, Roger, ed. (1993). "The Singing Tree". Insight Guides: Baltic States. APA Publications (HK) Ltd. p. 85. ISBN 978-9624-2118-2-5. Retrieved March 30, 2017.
  5. ^ Muktupāvels 2013, pp. 13
  6. ^ Apanavičius, Romualdas. Ancient Lithuanian Kanklės, Institute of Ethnomusic, Vilnius, Lithuania
  7. ^ Rahkonen, Carl (2004). "The Baltic Psaltery Symposia". Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved May 24, 2017.


Further readingEdit