Where do Ocarinas come from?

Round shaped flutes have been made for thousands of years from stone, wood, coconut and clay. Lavishly decorated, and with a beautiful sound, these vessel flutes were used in ancient cultures to charm the birds, please the gods, and lift people into a higher state of consciousness. Such flutes are now known as ocarinas.

The name ocarina, meaning ‘little goose’, was first given to a musical instrument by Italian teenager, Guiseppe Donati, when he invented a submarine-shaped clay flute in 1853. He showed it to his friends and, together, they perfected an instrument that has been carried to all corners of the world. Also known as a sweet potato flute, an ocarina even features in the popular Zelda Ocarina of Time computer game.

Each ocarina has its own story to tell, whether made from porcelain, metal, plastic or clay. David has written definitive ocarina entries for the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (2001), The Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments (2014) and for Oxford Music Online and the Liggins’ Ocarina collection is showcased in The Ocarina: a Pictorial History.

What does a 2,000 year old Ocarina sound like? Find out here: