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 , Iron Metal , Brass Metal , Glass , Bead , Animal Leather Skin ?Reptile Skin
Carved , Hollowed , Bound , Plaited , Perforated , Forged (Metal) Hammered Bent Inlaid Recycled?
L = 365, external L embouchure = 56, external W embouchure = 40; diameter opening = 32 by 22; diam distal end = 13.5; diam finger-hole = 2; diam brass band = 13.8; carrying strap W = 6.2, th = 3.2; iron rings = 16.7 by 2.2, 16.1 by 1.3; binding strips W =
284.8 g
Local Name:
echoich [bilo]
Other Owners:
Jack Herbert Driberg
Field Collector:
Jack Herbert Driberg
PRM Source:
Jack Herbert Driberg
Donated 1925
Collected Date:
By 1925
Small notched end-blown flute carved from a waterbuck horn with the interior hollowed out. The broad embouchure has been shaped with a concave front and back edge, that rises gently to either side; this puts it in the same category of objects such as 1934.8.96 which are more obviously notched; a dark resinous material has been applied inside the lip at these side points to narrow the aperture, reducing it to a rectangular-shaped opening at the centre. A series of beads have been pressed and set into this substance, not all of which are clearly visible. These consist of 2 large blue ring or spherical glass beads (Pantone 288C), an opaque white glass ring bead; a black ring or spherical bead, probably glass; a smaller white glass disc bead; 5 tiny translucent red glass ring or disc beads, possibly with a white core (Pantone 192C), 2 or more iron beads made of rectangular bands bent into loops, and 3 brass strips or beads. There are at least 2 other types of beads present, but their colours and shapes are not clear. Both edges of the embouchure carry a high surface polish that probably represents use-wear.

Below the mouth, the body follows the natural curvature of the horn, with a ribbed upper body that tapers to a rounded point at the other end which has a very narrow hole piercing its tip, that acts as a finger-hole to control the note. Below the mouth, narrow strips of reptile skin have been wound around the body, and into a raised ridge of leather or hide 2 piece plaiting that runs as a rib down the convex back of the horn. This binding continues for two thirds of the length of the horn. The plaiting was originally perforated at the top, and then twice down its length, presumably to attach a carrying loop; these holes have all broken at their upper edges. It was then re-pierced, and two iron loops pushed through the holes, each made of a rod bent into a circle with overlapping ends (Pantone 877C). A leather strap was then attached to these loops. This has been made from two flat strips of leather, perforated along their lengths and interwoven through each other to create a close-fitting herringbone design. The upper end was pushed through the ring and doubled back on itself, before being tied down with thin iron wire. The lower end was attached to the loop in a similar way, but held in place using a thicker length of iron rod, that has been pushed through the two leather parts and bent to secure it. The lower part of the horn may have some kind of hard surface coating, and has a brass cylinder fitted just above its end (Pantone 871C). This has a smooth upper edge and a ragged lower edge; there is no seam, and it may be part of a recycled cartridge case.

The horn, binding strips and strap are a dark brown colour (Pantone black 4C). It is nearly complete; the binding has broken in 3 places, where it would appear the rings for the strap were originally attached, and there are some areas where it looks as though the binding strips have become detached and lost. It has a weight of 284.8 grams, and is 365 mm long. The embouchure measures 56 by 40 mm across the outside, with an internal diameter measuring 32 by 22 mm across, while the distal end has a diameter of 13.5 mm and the finger-hole through this, which is more oval than round, has a tiny diameter of 2 mm; the brass band around the tip has a diameter of 13.8 mm; the carrying strap is 6.2 mm wide and 3.2 mm thick, and is attached to rings that measure 16.7 and 16.1 mm across, with widths of 2.2 and 1.3 mm each. The binding strips have a typical width of 5 mm. The various types of beads cannot be accurately measured, as their bodies are too deeply submerged in the surrounding matrix.

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; this example lacks the long tails that usually hang down behind, known as alyam; f or an illustration of how this instrument is worn, see J.H. Driberg, 1923, The Lango, plate opposite p. 80 (bottom left). 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).

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.

The technique of using a dark coloured material as a base for inset coloured beads is also seen on an earlier fighting bracelet, attributed to the Murle (see 1884.82.23).

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] 1925.212 [pencil insert] 16 [end insert] - ditto [war-flute, echoich , of horn, with air-guides of wax at the open end and very small stop at the tip. Blown like an end-flute; worn suspended from the neck], without the 'tails'.
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 - End-flute of waterbuck horn, with wax air-guides & small terminal stop. Used in war. LANGO tribe, UGANDA PROT. (N. of L. KIOGA). Pres. by J.H. Driberge, 1925 [tag front] Bilo or echoich . Every man has his own particular call-note, which is recognised & never imitated [rectangular metal-edged tag, tied to object; RTS 7/12/2004].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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