Woodwinds Friends and Relatives


The Inga tribe of Native Americans in Colombia make a small whistle out of the shells of land snails. For some reason, these are played only by women.

The Tucano tribe, also of Colombia, make flutes out of the bones of deer and egrets. They use the stems of certain palm leaves to make very large flutes. These, for some reason, are only played by men.


In Uganda, there are whole ensembles of different sizes of panpipes! The people there call panpipes obulere.


The people of Guatemala play an oboe-like instrument called the chirimia. It came over from Spain with the early settlers. The chirimia is related to the shawm, an early form of the oboe.

The zurna is a shawm that is played by the people of Azerbaijan. It is beautifully enamelled and often ornamented with silver. It is usually played in pairs.


In the Sudan, in Africa, clarinets are made from millet cane.

On Colombia's Atlantic Coast, musicians make clarinets out of the thin trunk of a small palm tree.

The Chinese have an instrument called the sheng, which means mouth organ; but it really looks like a little organ! It consists of lots of small bamboo tubes fastened together vertically. The player blows through a mouthpiece on the side.


In Azerbaijan, there is a cylindrical double-reed instrument called a balaman. Balamans are usually played in pairs; one musician plays the melody and the other accompanies with a drone.

Questions? Email us!

1999 New York Philharmonic