The nose flute is found
throughout Polynesia. The Bishop Museum, on O`ahu, has flutes from Hawai‘i, the
Caroline Islands, Fiji, the Marquesas, Tonga, Niue, Futuna, and Tahiti. The
Samoan people played their courting flute using the mouth. In Aotearoa the
flutes were made of wood or human bone. In Hawai`i, the nose flute is used in the hula,
the traditional dance of Hawai`i, as well as in courting.
As a sweetheart’s instrument, it is not at all loud. Rather, the tone is
intended to be soft and sweet. Traditionally, it is not played in concert
for a large audience, but played in a quiet place for a someone special.
According to one legend, a god taught a young chief to make the nose
flute so that he could court a beautiful girl from the valley below his
upland court. The nose flute is found in many Hawaiian legends of courtship
In the Hawaiian language, the flute is known by a number of names:
"nose flute," (Pukui and Elbert 1986), by the more specific term
'ohe hanoihu, "bamboo flute [for] nose," `ohe hanu ihu, "bamboo [for] nose
breath" (Nona Beamer lectures), and the evocative term, “mea ho‘oipoipo” or
“thing for lovemaking.”
There are different ways to play the `ohe hano ihu. Two of the more
common are to hold it similar to a cigarette, and to hold it similar to a
cigar. In the “Cigarette Style,” the flute is held between the index and
middle finger, about three or four inches from the node. The thumb is placed
gently against the nostril. the flute is angled so breath from the open
nostril flows across the breath hole near the node. The other hand stops the
tone holes. In the “Cigar Style,” the flute is held between the middle or
fourth finger and the thumb. The index finger is used to press the nose.
In either hold, while gently breathing out through the nose, adjust the
angle of the flute so that the air passes across the top hole. Move the
flute slowly into various positions until you can make a tone. Continue to
adjust until the tone is clear and pleasant.
Read more by clicking here. . .
Native Hawaiian musician Manu
Josiah shares his mana`o on the Native Hawaiian flute.
Hawaiian musician Manu Josiah
and his wife, Leilehua Yuen, talk story about the `ohe hano ihu, the Native
De Roche talks story with Hawaiian musician Manu Josiah about the physics of
flute playing - impromptu duet.
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