Return to the Andes: Ocarina Workshop in Peru

Ocarinas in the Andes

David and Christa Liggins arrived home yesterday after two and a half weeks researching and playing ocarinas in the Peruvian Andes.

“Seeing so many ancient vessel flutes in museums and then playing ocarinas at Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca was a great experience for us. We’re bringing it all back to share with new audiences in schools around the UK” said David.

David first saw Ocarinas when he visited Peru in 1979 – ancient Vessel Flutes many thousands of years old, each one exquisitely made to produce sounds that were of great significance in pre-Columbian society.

These museum Ocarinas provided the inspiration for John Taylor’s sound experiments in clay, resulting in the creation of the first 4-hole English Ocarina 50 years ago. They also provided the inspiration for David to prepare and introduce English Ocarinas to schools in 1983.

Today, Ocarinas are everywhere in Peru. Indian women call “Ocarina, Ocarina” as they toot on their little terracotta flutes at roadside markets and ancient Inca sites. Even high up in the Andes, whistling through the cold winds of the Altiplano, tourists are lured by the sound of Ocarinas.

These modern Peruvian Ocarinas are cheap and cheerful, prettily painted but poor in sound quality and musical potential, a far cry from their ancient predecessors.

David and Christa returned to Peru with their teenage daughters and their new plastic English Ocarinas. Together they explored Machu Picchu, lost city of the Incas. The ancient stones reverberated to the sound of their Rainbow Oc®, producing astounding acoustical results and impromptu applause from other visitors.

And incredibly, the Liggins family were privileged to meet experts researching the history of the ocarina and to share instruments and understanding with them. They listened to ancient ocarinas being played and recorded, and participated in demonstrations of whistling pots.

It’s not surprising that David and Christa, inspired by the trip, are now writing a new chapter in the History of the Ocarina – their article will appear next year in a brand new edition of the New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments at Oxford Music Online.

Watch out for more videos and photos of the trip on YouTube and FaceBook. “Thank you” to all the local guides and helpers who made the trip such a success.

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