Nyckelharpa (pl. "nyckelharpor") is one of my favourite instruments. Of course. Almost everything I do at work has to do with nyckelharpa, so anything else would be weird. It was the sound that caught me the first time I heard the instrument. That fantastic sound. Like in a church, without a church. Like acoustic reverb. Eric Sahlström played on an EP record, in remembrance of Fallens dag (The Day of the [water-]Fall) in Älvkarleby (Upland, Sweden).
From where does it come, then, this wonderful instrument? Well, actually it comes from the province of Upland, and especially from the northern part of this province (Upland is on the east cost of Sweden, and, in the south includes the northern half of the Swedish capital). The nyckelharpa, or a precursor of it, came to this part of Sweden, probably during the Middle Ages, and possibly via the Hanseatic League. With the exception of a few occasional instruments, it never spread further into the country. This was the situation up until the 1960-70's, when a folk music wave washed over the Western World. In connection with that wave many more people discovered the nyckelharpa, and since then it has spread tremendously; first to the rest of Sweden, and then also, to a certain extent, to many other countries. At least 10.000 people play nyckelharpa in Sweden today, at all levels, from amateurs to professionals.
The type of nyckelharpa that most people play today is the chromatic nyckelharpa, developed in the 1920's and 30's.
My nyckelharpa, which can be seen on the photograph to the left, was made by Hans Gille from Österbybruk (Upland, Sweden), one of the very best makers.
Ditte Andersson, nyckelharpa player by profession