From its earliest appearance in ancient civilizations of
the world to the present day, the ocarina has possessed the allure of the flute
while maintaining a mystique all its own.
The earliest "vessle flutes" (ocarinas) were made of clay and often were in the shape of small animals. The Chinese had an egg shaped flute called a "Xun" that dates back 7000 years. Many varieties of Pre Columbian vessel flutes have been discovered in Latin America.
In the 1850s a 17 year old Italian boy named Giuseppe Donati designed a unique vessel flute with a mouthpiece protruding from the side. He called his new creation "Ocarina" which means "little goose." These new instruments quickly became popular throughout Europe, and in the early 1900s they were affectionately known as "sweet potatoes" in America...a name that continues to this day.
During World War II the U.S. government issued mass-produced plastic ocarinas to its soldiers as a morale booster. Wooden sweet potatoes were first made in the United States by a group of high school boys in Minnesota. They became quite well known as a touring ocarina group called "The Potato Bugs." To read more about them, click the "Potato Bugs" link on the right.
Whether you collect ocarinas, or just want to learn more about their interesting history, you will want a copy of the new and amazing book, The Ocarina: A Pictorial History by David and Christa Liggins. It traces the rich history of this fascinating instrument in full color photographs and thoroughly researched text. It contains literally hundreds of pictures of some of the most unusual ocarinas imaginable. I've been collecting ocarinas for over twenty five years, and there are many instruments in this book that I've never seen before.
This book fills an obvious void in the ocarina's meager literature. I'm glad I bought it, and I think you will be too! You will find the book listed in the "Products" link of the main navigation bar above.