Eija Kankaanranta is a multi-talented kantele player who enjoys tackling sometimes quite fiendish challenges. She has a particular fondness for contemporary music and improvisation, but she is equally at home with Astor Piazzolla, Herbie Hancock and transcriptions of Karelian kantele tunes and Gregorian chant. Eija has premiered and recorded music by composers such as Kaija Saariaho, Lotta Wennäkoski, Asta Hyvärinen, Juhani Nuorvala, Olli Virtaperko and Jukka Tiensuu. Apart from the concert kantele, she plays the electric kantele, the hammer dulcimer and small kanteles. She has been Lecturer in Kantele at the Sibelius Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki since August 2021.
Eija has appeared as a soloist with the Avanti! Chamber Orchestra, the Joensuu City Orchestra, the Ostrobothnia Chamber Orchestra, the Nederlands Blazers Ensemble and the Pori Sinfonietta, and she has played with the Zagros Ensemble, the Finnish Baroque Orchestra, the Uusinta Ensemble, the Tapiola Sinfonietta, the Lisbeth Diers Ensemble, the Moscow Contemporary Music Ensemble and the Athelas Sinfonietta. She is also active in the blues-folk fusion combo Juurakko, in duos with flautist Camilla Hoitenga (USA) and violinist Marianne Maans, and in the Superpluck trio with guitarist Rody van Gemert and harpsichordist Assi Karttunen performing Japanese and Finnish contemporary music. Since 2016, she has been playing the kantele in performances of Kaija Saariaho’s opera Only the Sound Remains in Europe, Japan and the USA.