Nasal flute and bone flute from Amazonia


In a trip to Guyana on the Maroni River, a mission with Musiques de Nulle Part, invited for the second time by Canopée des Sciences, we made a stop in Twenké, a small village two hours in canoe from Maripasoula, here for those who do not locate well:

It is a Wayana village, an Amerindian tribe living mainly on the Maroni River. We spent the afternoon and the evening here, animated a PVC overtone flutes workshop (video tutorial here!) and gave a small concert for the whole village.

I had an exciting meeting there, a musician and flute maker, Makuwé Pimkani. He is not an original Wayana but Apalaï, another Native American tribe from Brazil.

In the early morning we had a little time to talk, he introduced me to two traditional Wayana flutes, the Kapau Yetpë bone flute and the Patete nasal flute.


The Kapau Yetpë flute (literally, yetpë: bone, kapau: deer) is a notched flute like Andean quena or Japanese shakuhachi, with three holes. The deer bone is naturally hollow, the holes, the notch and the decoration are made with a knife. The tuning fork is not important, the instrument is made to play solo, but the three holes are precisely tuned.

The Kapau Yetpë flute is the best way for Wayana mens to seduce a girlfriend.

I also got two flutes from Captain Aïwé Aloïké, Twenké customary chief, I have to practice a little and I send a video on the youtube channel!

If you are interested, you can also take a look at the article Plans and measurements: Kapau Yetpë Wayana bone flute for precise measurements and informations about the playing of the instrument.


The Patete flute is a side hole flute blown with one nostril, the other nostril being blocked by pressing it on the pipe. The flute is blocked on each side with beeswax. The hole is placed away from the block, unlike usual flutes. It has three playing holes, two played with the right hand and one played with the left hand, a rather unusual hole, located between the block and the playing hole.

This flute is traditionally played by Wayanas for entertainement only, early in the morning, around 4-5 am, we could ear many flautist around the village. This playing is now kind of forgotten.

Like with bone flutes, I also wrote an article Plans and measurements: Patete Wayana nasal flute

I’m working on a little film with the shooting I made there, I will add it as soon as it is finished!

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About Nicolas Bras 16 Articles
Homemade Instrument maker, rare and strange instrument seeker / Bricoleur d'instruments, chercheur d'instruments rares

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