Do most people begin learning on the five-string instrument?
MR. SAARI: Yes. I started with the big one first, but in most of workshops where I’ve taught the beginners were playing five- or ten-stringers. After two or three years many move on to the large kantele. NEA: Do you enjoy teaching? MR. SAARI: I’ve gotten quite involved in teaching in workshops. It’s very fascinating. At some of the larger workshops they’ll have somebody from Finland teach the more advanced students. Those of us from here zero in on the beginners. NEA: Are there any challenges to keeping the kantele tradition going? MR. SAARI: Recently they’ve started making electric kanteles. My dad, I believe, had the world’s first electric kantele, made around 1942 by Paul Tutmarc, who more or less invented the electric guitar. By today’s standards it was a very crude set up –- a heavy electrical unit was set up on the kantele. But more recently in Finland they’ve begun making electric kanteles and the musicians are playing a mixture of plucking and strumming. To me it’s sounding mor