Lango flute

Lango flute
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
North of Lake Kyoga
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 1925
Antelope Horn Animal , Resin Plant
Carved , Hollowed , Perforated
L = 612, embouchure external L = 61, external W = 59, internal diam = 50; diam finger-holes = 8, diam starter holes = 2 mm [RTS 7/12/2004].
755.9 g
Local Name:
otule [atule] min bilo
Other Owners:
Jack Herbert D riberg
Field Collector:
Jack Herbert Driberg
PRM Source:
Jack Herbert Driberg
Donated 1925
Collected Date:
By 1925
Large notched end-blown flute carved from a waterbuck horn, hollowed out inside. This has a broad notched embouchure through which the instrument is played, with concavely cut front and back edges; thick lumps of a dark resinous material has been applied inside the sides of this opening to narrow it, reducing the aperture to an hourglass-shaped hole. Below this, the body follows the natural shape of the horn, with obliquely ribbed body that curves convexly along its length before tapering to a narrow, sharp point at the other end, which is smooth and unribbed. Three circular finger-holes have been burnt into the concave upper surface of the lower part, and have irregularly blackened interior walls. In 2 cases, there is a small starter hole to one side of the actual hole, perhaps representing early attempts to fix the position of these holes, which were not carried through. The object is complete and intact, with some damage where the surface has been scraped down on one side near the embouchure; it is currently a dark brown colour (Pantone black 7C). It has a weight of 755.9 grams, and is 612 mm long. The embouchure has an external length of 61 mm and a width of 59 mm, and an internal diameter of 50 mm; the finger-holes have a diameter of 8 mm and the starter holes measure 2 mm across.

Collected by Jack Herbert Driberg in Uganda, North of Lake Kyoga, and donated to the Pitt Rivers Museum in 1925.

This type of flute is known as the
min bilo, or base flute, also called by the more generic name otule. Driberg 1923, The Lango, defines the term min (pl. megi or mege or mon) on p. 395 of his English-Lango dictionary as "Female that has given birth, mother; applied also to indicate size (used of animals, etc., not of persons, except in a few conventional insults)" and min bilo as "bass flute".

Driberg states that bass flutes of this kind were made from adult waterbuck, cob, roan or tragelaphus, and that they have 3 finger-holes which are made by burning with a heated spear butt. "The correctness with which they judge the intervals for boring the stops is remarkable. Indeed, it is unusual to see a flute which has had to be restopped, the original stops having been filled up with beeswax" (Driberg 1923,
The Lango, p. 124). For further discussion of these instruments and their use, including in consort with other flutes, see M. Trowell & K.P. Wachsmann, Tribal Crafts of Uganda, 1953, pp 345-7. This can also be described as a 'stopped' flute, as the body is not open ended at its base (compare this to examples such as 1934.8.87, which has a finger-hole at its distal end.

Rachael Sparks 25/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [VII, p. 189] - 1925 [pencil insert] 14 [end insert] J.H. DRIBERG , Esq. c/o the Postmaster, Khartoum. Specimens collected by himself among the LANGO tribe in the UGANDA PROTECTORATE, N. of LAKE KIOGA. Viz: [...] 1925.210 [pencil insert] 14 [end insert] - Large end-flute, atule , made from a Water-buck's horn, with wax air-guides at the wide end, and 3 finger-stops. This is the min bilo , ('mother-flute') or bass flute.
Additional accession book entry [VII, p. 25 top, in pencil] - blue numbers not valid & not on specimens. Inserted by an assistant in error. [page opposite 189] - 1925.14.14 Number given HLR.

Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the tribes catalogue card [RTS 24/5/2004].

Old Pitt Rivers Museum label - Atule , end-flute of water buck's horn, with gum lip-guide & 3 stops. LANGO tribe, UGANDA PROT. (N. of L. KIOGA). Pres. by J.H. Driberg, 1925 [tag front] This is the bass flute ( min bilo ) = 'mother flute') & is used in consort with the smaller flutes, adadang + atin bilo. In Driberg's 'Lango' (1923) the name is otule [p.124] [tag back; rectangular metal-edged tag tied to object; RTS 7/12/2004].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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