The nyckelharpa is one of the instruments commonly used in Swedish folk music. It was played Sweden as early as the Middle Ages; preserved church murals from this era, primarily in Uppland, depict angels playing the nyckelharpa.
Uppland was the home of the nyckelharpa in Sweden for a long time, and thanks to musician, composer and instrument maker Eric Sahlström from Tobo in the northern part of the province, the instrument regained popularity in the 1960s.
This wave of popularity has also spread o other countries. There are many active nyckelharpists in the USA and several enthusiasts from Japan have applied to Eric Sahlström Institute in Tobo to learn to play the instrument.
Groups and individuals who perform music from the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the Baroque period have included the nyckelharpa in their arrangements, but the instrument has also been discovered by contemporary composers. Possibly the world’s most widespread piece of music featuring the nyckelharpa is ABBA’s song, “Dum dum diddle”, from 1976.
This is the third time that Sweden Post is celebrating the nyckelharpa on a stamp. The first was in 1975 when nyckelharpist Ceylon Wallin was depicted on a stamp, and the second was when the instrument represented Swedish musical culture on the stamp for the European Year of the Music in 1985.