Musical instruments: Clay flute

During my last fieldtrip, my assistant Sayed Ali pointed out to me a sound-producing instrument that I had not seen before. The diha-flute is made from clay and has approximately the size of a table tennis ball. There are three openings, a mouth hole at the top and two slightly smaller tone holes for the thumb and the index finger on the side.

Baskeet clay flute (diha)

Baskeet clay flute (diha)

I was able to record Wonzhelo Yiibzhi from Saattsa, who owned and knew how to play the diha-flute. I am reluctant to call the diha a “musical instrument” (although I put this post in the series “musical instruments”), as it is not used to accompany or introduce songs, poems or dances. Instead, the diha is played to attract a person’s attention across long distances. On the recording provided here (diha), the speaker calls (or, as the recording is staged, pretends to call) a neighbour across a long distance. He wants the neighbour to get ready because they have planned to go together to the lowlands to plough.

I am not sure how widespread the use of the diha is. The instrument was not known to people I asked in Laska, so it is possible that the diha is only found in the Saattsa area and more eastern parts of Baskeet – but this is still to be verified!

I’d be happy to know where else in Ethiopia this type of clay flute is used. Don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.

(Acknowledgements: My thanks go to Wonzhelo Yiibzhi for showing me how Baskeet clay pipes are played.)


Update 04/04/2012: I am grateful to my colleague Paulette Roulon-Doko who alerted me today to the fact that what I call “clay pipe” in this post should actually more appropriately be called ocarina. I still don’t know how widespread ocarinas are in Ethiopia but, thanks to Paulette, I know at least that wind instruments made from clay are also used elsewhere in Africa, e.g. by the Gbaya in the Central African Republic.

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One Response to Musical instruments: Clay flute

  1. Pingback: Musical instruments in Baskeet: Drums | Basket to Ethiopia

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