Isoka or Mini Ocarina - Ancient Clay Flute That Is Fun For All Ages

Source
CC Image of Isoka Courtesy of Kristy Harding
CC Image of Isoka Courtesy of Kristy Harding | Source

I once met a parent who took an interest in different musical instruments from the world, collected them and then without any compensation visited different schools in West Los Angeles to demonstrate their sounds. I was amused but was not touched. Then recently I returned from Oxnard's Strawberry Festival which is known for its music, strawberry-themed food, a variety of food vendors, kids' ride, and my personal favorite, the crafts fair. There, I met a man named Luis Gervasi who had a booth selling small, medium, and large Isoka flutes that resembled oval bugs. He also had other isoka flutes shaped like dolphins. He offered these small clay instruments in red, green, and red with white Aztec designs. The sound in controlled toots was mesmerizing. My kids just perked up like mice following Pied Piper of Hamelin. Our kids were not the only ones there, and a husky Hispanic boy jumped in front of my kids and handed the artisan his cash and chose a small red one like the one shown.

Although Luis called his instruments isoka flutes, this type of clay flutes that was first used in Central and South America by the Mayans, Incas, Aztecs and Diaguitas in rituals, shedding light on the inner lives or the long forgotten humans who used them. This instrument has been found in India, and a more egg-shaped in China called "Xun". In 1527, Aztecs musicians introduced it to Europe, and it then evolved to the potato-shaped clay instrument, which was nicknamed "ocarina" or "little goose." When the recorder became popular, isoka flutes or ocarinas became obscure. The release of a popular video game called “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time” renewed the public's interest in ocarinas or isoka flutes.

Description

Luis's isoka flutes have a short slitted blow hole and a bigger hole like a whistle where the air and sound flow out. On the top there are four holes (three large and one small) and two holes on the backside. The isoka flutes can be blown or tooted, the latter method reminding me of "Toot Sweets" in Chilly Chilly Bang Bang. See video below. They are also called mini ocarinas or four-holed ocarinas. Interestingly, the two YouTube videos do not demonstrate the tooting techniques but were flown like flutes.

My kids have not lost interest yet. Whether they are called isoka flutes or ocarinas, the clay instruments are rather cute and portable, hung around their necks like necklaces. And coincidentally, my son is a huge Legend of Zelda fan. If you like the red one, you can contact Luis at lgervasi@hotmail.com.

Metallica Unforgiven on the Isoka Flute

On your first purchase at iherb.com, take $10 off $40 or more or $5 if less than $40 when you use promo code "cew288." Free shipping for purchase of $20 or more. Free full size sample available or greatly reduced trial price on full size item.
On your first purchase at iherb.com, take $10 off $40 or more or $5 if less than $40 when you use promo code "cew288." Free shipping for purchase of $20 or more. Free full size sample available or greatly reduced trial price on full size item.

Amazing Grace on the Isoka Flute

Making of An Isoka Flute or Mini Ocarina

Toot Sweets with Dick Van Dyke

More by this Author

  • Cute Christmas Cupcakes
    14

    The best part about the Christmas season is the color. People decorate with Christmas lights, their Christmas tree, and their homes. Cities decorate their lamp posts. For cupcake lovers, it is a time to decorate...

  • Why Consider A Vintage Sewing Machine?
    10

    I grew up with my Mom and her Singer. There was not a week where I did not see my Mom sew. The Singer brand was comforting when my husband surprised me with a sewing machine in 1995. Unfortunately, the honeymoon between...

  • Cute Christmas Cookies
    15

    It is time to think about cute Christmas cookies again. What makes a cookie cute? Hare are some of the answers -- animals, color, Christmas-themed, simplicity in idea, winter, stars, snowflakes. Because they are so...


Comments 12 comments

PageC profile image

PageC 4 years ago

This brought back memories! My grandparents had one of these and I loved playing with it.


formosangirl profile image

formosangirl 4 years ago from Los Angeles Author

PageC, thanks for your experience. It is interesting that your grandparents owned one, but most people nowadays have never heard about one or seen one.


BlossomSB profile image

BlossomSB 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

I once went to a holiday class and we made our own ocarinas out of clay. They looked pretty and we could get sound from them after they'd been fired, but the holes have to be exact to get the right notes! lol!


formosangirl profile image

formosangirl 4 years ago from Los Angeles Author

BlossomSB, thanks for sharing your experience. In this video, the maker was able to test the ocarina as soon as she finished. I was surprised that she was able to make it work, even though the clay is still wet and soft.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

I would love to hear one of these played in person. They look so beautiful and I am sure that it would be a great activity for children. Thanks for the sharing.


formosangirl profile image

formosangirl 4 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Thanks, Teaches12345. I had never heard of the Isoka flute or an ocarina before visiting the Oxnard Strawberry Festival. My son has heard of it prior to visiting the craft fair because he is a big Legend of Zelda fan. I hope you hear it in person one day as well.


muddsister1 profile image

muddsister1 3 years ago from CLEVELAND, Oh

Do you make ocarinas? I am always looking for other artists that make clay whistles.


formosangirl profile image

formosangirl 3 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Hi muddsister1. No. We met the artist at the Strawberry Festival in Oxnard. I find clay to be tremendously fascinating but I don't have the musical knowledge to start a new hobby. I take it that you make clay whistles. What a beautiful art!


no body profile image

no body 2 years ago from Rochester, New York

Hello Formosangirl, I have been playing the ocarina for about a year now. It is incredibly easy to play, or should I say, to make notes that are encouraging to someone with no music talent at all. My musical knowledge is self-taught and so I struggle but after about 4 or 5 attempts at playing a song with my 12 hole sweet potato I began to hear very sweet sounds. In a couple of weeks I had some songs down so I could play in key of C.

The incredible thing about the ocarina is that vessel flutes have a mellow haunting sound that makes it possible to make songs even if it is that first time you ever held one in your life.

The structure and lay out of the holes are easy on the hands (I have very acute arthritis in my hands and fingers and I play my ocarina fine for long periods of time. (where writing with a pen will cause acute pain)

The progression of notes are linear in the 12 hole so you can simple follow the holes in order to play a basic scale. And just as amazing to me is that there is a hole for # and b so all you do is cover that hole and you have your half-note easily as moving your finger a fraction of an inch.

The type of ocarina in the video is a fairly new invention in the history of the ocarina. Invented by an English Mathematician, 4 holes on the front will give all the notes of a basic scale and the half-notes as well. But I had not tried one of these until a couple of weeks ago when I received one just before my birthday. It only took me a few days to learn to play and the sound is incredible. Now I wear my tiny pendant everywhere and can play it all the time and when I practice I practice on all three types of ocarina that I now have.

In the most recent innovation in the ocarina world is the invention of multi-chamber ocarinas where, to the basic 12 holes, is added a second chamber in the double, a third chamber in the triple, and even a fourth chamber in the quadruple ocarina. I have a Soloist triple and it is taking a good while to master switching your mouth from one airway over to the next chamber airway and back again to flow with the music but I have to say, it is coming along nicely.

I really was excited to see you wrote this hub on my favorite instrument. It gave me a break from research on my next article. So thank you for that Formosangirl. Voted up Beautiful and Interesting.


formosangirl profile image

formosangirl 2 years ago from Los Angeles Author

No Body, thanks for your thoughtful comments and knowledge. I am hoping that my children will find appreciate their ocarinas again some day, especially after I share your insight on this very portable instrument. Unfortunately, being a teen and pre-teen, my children have fleeting interests.


no body profile image

no body 2 years ago from Rochester, New York

Yes, but you have shared. That is the responsibility of a parent, to share and open the world to her children. God will help them decide what path to take, at least they have had the option. It may be that they will decide later like I did to include the beauty of this miracle of sound. I cannot express it any other way. But in this world that God made there are many more miracles than just this one. I am sure they will find a path that will open to them even greater things than this.


formosangirl profile image

formosangirl 2 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Thanks, no body. Music adds a lot to life, especially when you are the one creating it. Thanks for your advice.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working