Nose flute

The nose flute is a popular musical instrument played in Polynesia and the Pacific Rim countries. Other versions are found in Africa, China and India.


'Ohe hano ihu in Hawaiian means "bamboo, breath, nose." It is made from a single bamboo node with a hole at the node area for the breath and three holes for the notes on the top side of the tube. It was often used in conjunction with chants and song. The Hawaiians believe that the nose is pure and innocent unlike the mouth which can say many things. So the breath entering and exiting the 'ohe hano ihu is purer than the mouth. In olden days a man would serenade his sweetheart with the nose flute in order to woo her heart and win her affections.


In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the nose flute is played by eight different ethnic groups. See Grove's Dictionary of Musical Instruments, 1984 edition.


In the Philippines the pitung ilong (flute nose in Tagalog) or kalaleng of the northern Bontok people, is played with the extreme forward edge of the right, or left, nostril. Because the Kalaleng is long and has a narrow internal diameter, it is easy to play different harmonics through overblowing - even with the rather weak force of the air from one nostril. Thus, this nose flute can play a over a range of two and and a half octaves. Finger holes in the side of the Bamboo tube, change the operating length, giving various scales. Some players take a filter tip from a cigarette and plug up the other (unused) nostril, in order to increase the force of their breath through the flute.

New Zealand

Historically, in New Zealand, the Māori had no naturally occurring native bamboo, so some of their nose flutes called nguru were carved from a soft stone, similar to soapstone. Wood, bone, and various kinds of Ivory could also be used to make the "nguru", often with very elaborate carvings, befitting such a sacred object. With modification, a transitional "nguru" could also be played with the mouth, instead of the nose.

The Maori koauau ponga ihu, a gourd nose flute was also part of the nose flute tradition, (note that a similarly constructed gourd nose flute, ipu ho kio kio was also used in Hawaii). The maker would form a nose hole in the neck (or stem) of the gourd, by cutting off the neck, at a fairly small cross section. This small hole is placed under the player's nostril, in order to generate the flute-tone. The "koauau ponga ihu" functions as an Ocarina in it's acoustic principles. Several notes of a scale can be obtained, by drilling fingerholes into the "Bowl" of the gourd.


The Humanatone nose flute is a musical novelty, a sort of plastic shield held under the nose that directs the player's breath through a whistle slot lying over the mouth opening, acting as a resonator. The tones produced are varied by changing the shape of the player's mouth cavity with different vowel and consonant formations. This is in the same manner as the Jew's harp (or 'Trump') is played. However the trump is a plucked tongue in a frame and is possibly the origin of free beating reeds, used in the following instruments: Harmonica Accordion Concertina Melodica .

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