The Art of Ocarina
What is an Ocarina, you might ask? That is the same question I had, until I opened my package containing two beautiful little instruments and pulled out the instruction manuel, called "The Art of Ocarina."
Very interesting. My two boys were with me at the time. My four year old, Braxton grabbed the green one and my 17 year old son, Jonathan grabbed the other, which was a little ceramic dolphin. Both boys immediately put their Ocarina instruments to their lips. My little guy thought he was playing a beautiful song, and my teenager actually started playing the 'Star Wars' theme. It was very cool indeed. I had never even seen or heard of an Ocarina before. I showed my teenager the instruction manuel and he set off into his bedroom to read the manuel so that he could learn a little more about how to play his. (Yes, the dolphin is HIS.) My four year old was still just blowing into his like a whistle, and I put on the instructional DVD which came with the Ocarina. I attempted to teach my little Braxton where to put his fingers on the four holes, but he wasn't too keen on learning (yet.) So with Braxton, I will try again later.
Meanwhile, I was fascinated listening to my teenager and thrilled that he was so excited to learn to play his new instrument. He has an ear for music. He is a self taught guitar player and has a band. I couldn't help but think that perhaps he could incorporate his new Ocarina into his band? Maybe, maybe not.....but wow, I was impressed!
From their website:
The ocarina is an ancient instrument. The first known ocarina-like instrument appear about 12000 years ago. The ocarina’s
ocarina’s origins can be traced back to many different cultures. In South and Central America, the Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas all developed and performed on clay ocarinas which were often shaped like birds or animals. Ocarinas shaped like birds and animals could also be found in India as early as 5000 BC. China had its own form of ocarina called a Xun which was more rounded and egg-like in shape.
16th - 19th Centuries
The ocarina eventually made its way to Europe. In 1527, Cortes sent a group of Aztec dancers and musicians back to Emperor Charles V to perform at the royal court. The performance was well received and the Aztecs were sent to perform at various exhibitions throughout Europe. According to legend, a baker in Rome saw such a performance and was so impressed with the ocarina that he decided to make his own. (Bakers at that time often would make small pottery objects in their ovens to use up the leftover ashes.) It was nicknamed “ocarina” meaning “little goose.” It soon became a novelty item, but with its limited number of notes, it was little more than a toy. This all changed in the late 19th century when Guiseppe Donati, a young baker and musician, invented the submarine/sweet potato shaped ocarina which included accurate pitch and an extended range of notes. The ocarina could now be used for western art music. Various sizes were made which enabled ocarina players to form ensembles. One such ocarina ensemble is the famed Gruppo Ocarinistico Budriese which is still actively performing today.
During the first and second World Wars, servicemen often were provided with a pocket-sized ocarina to boost moral. As a result, the ocarina gained popularity in America as well as in Europe. However, due to rising interest in the recorder, the ocarina soon became unknown to the general public. With the release of the popular video game “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time” in the 1990s, the ocarina has reached a new level of popularity in America and Europe. The ocarina has also gained recognition in Asia, particularly in Japan, thanks to the efforts of ocarina master Sojiro. He has released several recordings and continues to perform internationally.
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*Disclosure: I was sent an Ocarina(s) and instructional booklet to test and to keep. These opinions are my own.