LIRU is an old East Carelian (Carelia is the easternmost part of ancient Finland, nowadays most of it belongs to Russia) wooden folk clarinet. It has a conical bore with seven tone holes. A reed, made out of juniper and fixed to the instruments narrow end, generates the sound of the liru.
The liru was rediscovered by musician and instrument maker Pekka Westerholm. Pekka makes lirus and other folk instruments and plays them in his ethnic free-jazz group “The World Mänkeri Orchestra”.
By construction the lirus made by Pekka Westerholm are strictly reconstructions of old shepherd instruments, although sometimes the materials are different than those used in ancient times. The liru played by Mikko Raasakka is made from African rosewood, and covered with Finnish birch bark. The reed is made from the precious heartwood of the juniper.
The liru has seven tone holes (one for the left thumb). The range of the liru is a little over two octaves (roughly d1 – f3) and its dynamic scale is impressive. Due to its conical bore its tone colour reminds that of the soprano saxophone.
In 2003 Mikko Raasakka heard the music of The World Mänkeri Orchestra, fell in love with the sound of the liru and soon after ordered one for himself. When the instrument was ready Mikko, together with kantele player Elisa Kerola, ordered a composition for liru and kantele from the composer Hannu Pohjannoro. The work was premiered in April 2005 in Helsinki and a little later at the Institut Finlandais in Paris.
Composers Herman Rechberger, Diego Soifer, Maria Kallionpää, Doina Rotaru, Matthias Kranebitter, Dana Probst and Adina Dumitrescu have also composed original music for liru (see Repertory).