Wilho Saari can trace the tradition of kantele-playing back five generations in his family. The kantele, a lap-harp reminiscent of the zither, is the national instrument of Finland. Saari's great-great grandmother, Kreeta Hapasalo, known as Kantele Kreeta, supported her 11 children by traveling throughout Finland, Russia, and Sweden performing for the public, as well as royalty, including the tsar's family.
In 1915, Wilho's father moved to Naselle, Washington, joining many Finnish immigrants living in that area of southwestern Washington. In 1982, at the age of 50, Wilho began to take the playing of the kantele seriously. Since then he has become a prolific composer of songs and tunes, estimating that he has written over 1,700 to date. Saari is also in demand as a performer at Finnish festivals across the country and he continues to teach in workshops and through apprenticeship programs. While he is known as a generous teacher, his greatest gift may be the individual songs he has written and dedicated to each of his six grandchildren.
National Endowment for the Arts · an independent federal agency
Sample: "Livakat Live"
Sample: "Linnun lento"