Mandora summit 2010

22 04 2010

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A while ago, I made a post about my main instrument the nordic mandola. As a complementary instrument I use another little known, 5-chorus plucked folk-instrument. Like the nordic mandola it’s a modified version of a historic instrument which has evolved alongside the second wave of nordic folkmusic. Still, very few people play the instrument. Yesterday five musicians and three instrument builders met up in Upplands Väsby to discuss the past and future of the mandora.

Like the nordic mandola, the modern history of the mandora has revolved around a musician. But where Ale Möller brought a preference for steel strings from the greek bouzoki, Totte Mattsson from the band Hedningarna came from the world of early music. He was a skilled player on renaissance lutes but wanted something simpler, less strings and something which went well with the Swedish style of music. In a book about old musical instrument he saw an image of the base-lute mandora, also called gallichon. He then had an instrument builder make a new instrument based on that very image.

The instrument turned out to have amazing qualities both as a base-instrument and as a melodic bearer. So Totte started using it in different bands and also – which is where I met Totte and the mandora for the first time – as a teacher at the folkmusic course at the Conservatory of music in Falun. I was a student on the nordic mandola at the school when Totte introduced me to the mandora. I loved it from the start. It complemented my other instrument in a perfect way – where the mandola is bright, clean and crisp the mandora is an ancient sounding instrument with jagged edges in terms of sound. At the end of the school year, I had already made an order with instrument builder Per Sandström.

A few others had already started playing the instrument, and other students later followed the same route – so it seemed the Swedish version of the historic instrument mandora had started to get a small following.

The emphasis in the last sentence should really be on small. There are around 15 instruments made, and we are 6-7 people who uses the instrument regularly (surprisingly, one in Japan!).  So it was nearly the whole population of swedish mandora players who met up in Upplands Väsby. Those who attended was Totte Mattsson, Gunnar Lingegård, Sven Åberg, Henrik Björlind, Per Sandström, Lars Jönsson,  Ola Söderström and myself. Yepp, Ola is the luthier who made my nordic mandola. The reasons for his involvement here is mostly that we used his café Gamla Apoteket as meeting spot, but being the great craftsman he is he also had some insights on different aspects of the mandora.

And many different aspect of the instrument was covered – how it’s made, tuned, stringed, fretted, played and so on. A long discussion was that of what to actually call the instrument – it looks like a historic mandora, but is tuned, stringed and played very different from it. There were many suggestions – “låtmandora”, “låtluta”, “nordic mandora”, “gallichon” and (although jokingly) even “Tottophone” . We didn’t agree on anything though. My suggestion is actually to just keep calling it “mandora” or simply “lute”. A cool thing is that Henrik Björlind is writing his master essay about the mandora! It will be very interesting to hear what he comes up with.

To conclude, it was a great meeting and a good start. We decided to try and meet up for a whole weekend the next time in a more project-like form.

If you are interested to know technicalities about the instrument, write a comment below or send me a mail. To get in touch with Per Sandström who is the one who makes these instruments, give him a call at 073-3809348 or mail him at . He seems to be willing to take orders at the moment.



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4 responses

11 05 2010
Odzyskiwanie Danych

How do you find enough time to write this blog ?!?

24 11 2010
2 03 2011
Todd Montgomery

Hello Daniel,

I have been enjoying your music for years now. I am curious about your mandola. Does it have 10 strings? How do you tune it? I really like the inclusion of the low strings. How many strings are on the alternative fret scale? Can you give me an email of website for Ola Sederstrom?

I have been playing Sotali over and over and over. I love it!


Todd Montgomery

2 03 2011

Hej Todd!
First of all, many thanks – so happy you like our music!
Hey, I actually wrote a blog post about the nordic mandola too, going into all the nerdy details, check it out:

Feel free to send me a mail if you want to talk more!
Regards /Daniel

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