Lango flute

Lango flute
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
North of Lake Kyoga
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 1925
Animal Horn , Animal Tail , Resin Plant , Brass Metal , Iron Metal? , Aluminium Metal ? , Tin Metal? Animal Hide Skin Ochre Reptile Skin
Carved , Hollowed , Perforated , Hammered , Bound , Covered Stitched Plaited Bent Recycled
Max L = 225 mm
627.6 g
Local Name:
echoich [alyam]
Other Owners:
Jack Herbert Driberg
Field Collector:
Jack Herbert Driberg
PRM Source:
Jack Herbert Driberg
Donated 1925
Collected Date:
By 1925
Notched end-blown war flute carved from the end of an animal's horn, hollowed out inside, and currently a dark brown colour (Pantone Black 7C). This has an oval plan view at the proximal end, where the embouchure has concavely-cut front and back edges with patches of use-wear. Thick lumps of a dark matt waxy or resinous material has been applied inside the sides of this opening to narrow it and make it a workable width for use; this was a way of personalising the instrument to suit the size of the musician's mouth. In this instance, the infill has been embellished with a thin rectangular strip of white metal in the centre of either side (probably aluminium or tin, Pantone Cool Grey 3C), pushed into the soft material and with traces of a shiny, possibly resinous adhesive around their edges. These were probably intended to be decorative, as they would not have altered the sound produced. Below the embouchure, the body follows the slight natural curve of the horn, gradually becoming more round in section towards the distal end. This has been cut to have a very slightly convex end, which is well polished, and which has a small circular finger-hole through its centre. A thin sheet of white metal, possibly iron, has been inserted inside this.

The lower part of the flute body has been bound around with 2 narrow strips of brass that run down in a spiral to the finger-hole; these are currently a metallic yellow colour (Pantone 871C). The upper part is covered with reptile skin, with a narrow piece wound around the body just above the brass binding, and then a larger rectangular piece wrapped immediately above, with the two ends stitched together in a long seam that runs down one side. This stitching appears to have been done with narrow strips of the same material, which was originally a yellow colour, now almost completely obscured by red ochre that has been smeared across the surface (Pantone 483C). The stitching continues above the top edge of the skin sheath, and is threaded through a small hole that has been perforated through the side of the embouchure lip. There is a small loop made from hide strips fastened to the lower part of this seam; this has been used to fix both a carrying loop, and 2 long decorative tassels. The carrying loop is made from a length of plaited hide - made by interlacing 2 narrow hide strips with perforated bodies through one another to create a herringbone design. The tassels are connected by a small brass ring - made from a rod bent into a loop with overlapping ends. These consist of 2 separate hide bands, with bodies plaited using a similar herringbone technique, pierced at one end to fit over the ring body. These become the central core of each tassel, which are created by winding narrow strips of hide with long animal hair attached into a spiral; this is a mix of buff coloured (Pantone 7401C) and dark brown to black hair (Pantone Black 6C). Several such strips were probably used in each case. At the base, the remains of the hide core are visible as unplaited strips. The top of each tassel is also wound round with short lengths of twisted plant fibre string, over which have been fitted 2 cylinders, made from recycled brass cartridge cases.

The surface of the object has been covered with heavy red ochre, visible over the upper horn body, reptile skin sheath, at the edges of the brass binding strips, and almost completely covering the plaited hide carrying loop and tassel bands, wherever visible. It appears to be complete, but has slight corrosion developing on the brass elements. It has a weight of 627.6 grams. The flute body is 223 mm long; the embouchure has an external diameter of 49 by 34 mm and an internal diameter of 31 by 28 mm; distal end measures 8.3 by 7.9 mm, while the finger-hole has a diameter of 2.5 mm. The reptile skin sheath cover is 84 mm long, and the brass strips range from around 7 to 10 mm in width; the carrying loop is 352 mm long, 7 mm wide and 3.5 mm thick. One tassel has a total length of 1145 mm, of which the hair part makes up 725 mm; the second is 1136 mm long, of which 720 mm is made up of animal hair. The brass cylinders have diameters of 12 and 11 mm respectively, while the plaited band sections are 8 mm wide and 3.8 mm thick.

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

This was a war flute, known as
echoich. It was worn around the neck by men, with the long tails, called alyam, hanging down behind. For an illustration of how this instrument is worn, see J.H. Driberg, 1923, The Lango, plate opposite p. 80 (bottom left) - in this case both flute and tails hang down his back, with the tails extending down to the owner's ankles. Driberg defines the term 'echoich' as war-whistle; the same word is also listed as meaning 'porcupine', but it is not clear whether these usages are related (Driberg 1923, p. 380). The term alyam is defined as a 'tail ornament worn by men' (op. cit. p. 364).

Driberg states: 'The
bilo proper is the war-whistle ( echoich) , but the term is generically used to cover all wind instruments... flutes are distinguished as min bilo and atin bilo [bass or treble flutes]. It is made of the horn of a young hartebeeste, cob or reedbuck, and the performer blows down the wide end of the horn, the tip being pierced to form a stop, which is operated by the little finger. Like the apel, it can only produce two notes of a somewhat shrill and unmusical tone at an interval of a minor third. Every man has his own whistle motif ( nying, or name, of bilo), which may be memorised by a few words, a catch or phrase of a private song.... The motif may not be played by anyone else, and an infringement of this rule will certainly cause a violent quarrel, and may even lead to bloodshed. Nor is this surprising when it is remembered that a man blows his whistle motif in war and hunting to signify that he has obtained a kill, and that it is his method of revealing his presence or identity from a distance to his beloved, his family and intimates (op.cit., 124-125).

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.

Compare the treatment of the finger-hole in this example with 1925.14.17 (a side-blown trumpet), which also has a piece of metal inserted into it.

The object is currently on display in the Court, case 85A.

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: [...] [p. 190] 1925.211 [pencil insert] 15 [end insert] - War-flute, echoich , of horn, with air-guides of wax at the open end, & very small stop at the tip. Blown like an end-flute; worn suspended from the neck with the 2 long tails hanging down the back.
Additional accession book entry [VII, p. 25 top, in pencil] - blue numbers not valid & not on specimens. Inserted by an assistant in error.

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

Old Pitt Rivers Museum label - Echoich , war-flute of horn, blown at open end. Small stop at apex. Worn round the neck by man, with the long tails ( alyam ) hanging down behind. LANGO tribe, UGANDA PROT. (N. of L. KIOGA). Pres. by J.H. Driberg, 1925 [rectangular metal-edged tag, tied to object; RTS 6/12/2004].

Display History:
Current display label - AFRICA, UGANDA, LANGO. End flute with one fingerhole, echoich, used in war. This flute is worn suspended around the neck with the two long decorative tails hanging down the back. d.d. J. Driberg, 1925.14.15 [Case C.85.A, RTS 6/12/2004].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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