Caroline Phillips cranks out tunes on a seldom-heard folk instrument: the hurdy-gurdy, a.k.a. the wheel fiddle. A searching, Basque melody follows her fun lesson on its unique anatomy and 1,000-year history.


  1. #1 Nemo
    September 25, 2010

    Thanks for this. I’d often heard the term “hurdy-gurdy”, but I never really knew what it meant until now.

  2. #2 6EQUJ5
    September 25, 2010

    I’ve been waiting for this since 1968, when I first heard Donovan’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man”. It’s been 42 years. So? I’m a patient man.

  3. #3 Origuy
    September 26, 2010

    Thank you for posting this; I’ve heard a fair amount of Basque music, but I don’t think I’ve heard any on the hurdy-gurdy.

    You can also hear a hurdy-gurdy in some of Loreena McKennitt’s songs.

    An unusual instrument, unique to Basque music, is the txalaparta. It’s the thing that looks like a giant xylophone being played by two guys.

  4. #4 evilDoug
    September 26, 2010

    Another for hurdy gurdy fans:

    It starts off rather slowly, but then really demonstrates what the instrument is capable of. Unfortunately, the camera is in a fixed position.

  5. #5 Esa Riihonen
    September 27, 2010

    I hope it is alright to promote also other less familiar but great sounding ancient instruments.

    Here is a great piece of modern ethno/folk using hurdy gurdy from the Swedish band Hedningarna (pagans), a kind of modern samanistic experience:

    The instrument in the left was a Swedish nyckelharpa (keyed violin). More on that from the Finnish folk/ethno/pop/jazz/whatever super group Värttinä, a nice nyckelharpa solo at the middle:

    Ok – now that you were also introduced to Finnish Kantele you want to hear more (I hope):

    Back to a little older incarnation of Hedningarna, when the Swedish guys were accompanied by two Finnish ladies – and a really primitive violin like Finnish instrument Jouhikko, great sound: