Episode 3: Ottar Kåsa – “Instrument of the devil” Hardanger fiddle

Ottar Kåsa - Hardanger fiddle player

In the new episode of “The Nordics Unveiled” Eldbjørg Hemsing is joint by a Hardanger fiddle musician and violin-maker Ottar Kåsa. Throughout the episode, Eldbjørg and Ottar will be unveiling the history and mystery connected to the Norwegian national instrument Hardingfele or Hardanger fiddle in English.

Ottar Kåsa is renowned Hardanger fiddle player and violinmaker, praised for making first class instruments. After attending the prestigious Ole Bull Academy in Voss, he established his own workshop, continuing nurturing the expertise of craftmanship of Hardanger fiddle making and playing.

The oldest found Hardanger fiddle dates back to a year 1651, belonging to Ole Jonsen Jaastad (1621 – 1694), who lived in the village of Ullensvang in Hardanger. Frequently referred also as “the instrument of the Devil”. Hardanger fiddle throughout the centuries remained an important part of Norwegian social and cultural heritage.

Hardanger fiddle from 1899 made by Peder Braatan Kroken Toke
Hardanger fiddle from 1899 made by Peder Braatan Kroken Toke

In modern designs, Hardanger fiddle is very similar to violin, though with either 8 or 9 strings (rather than four as on a standard violin) and thinner wood. Four of the strings are strung and played like a violin, while the rest, aptly named understrings or sympathetic strings resonate under the influence of the other four.

Listen on your favorite podcast platform:


The instrument is often highly decorated, with a carved animal (usually with a dragon or Lion of Norway), extensive inlay with the mother of pearl on tailpiece and fingerboard as well as the black ink decorations called “rosing” on the body of the instrument.

Listen to Ottar Kåsa performing the Hardanger fiddle


Production of podcast “The Nordics Unveiled” was made possible with generous support form foundations Dextra Musica and Bergesenstiftelsen.

The Nordics Unveiled © Hestia Arts AS

Matic Gajsek, Executive producer
Mathias Myren, Sound production