Flutes have long been part of traditional Choctaw culture. In the Choctaw language, a traditional flute is called uskala. This term was actually created by combining the words Choctaw oski or “river cane” and hello “to make a sound”. So, for our ancestors, the word "flute" literally meant "river cane that makes a sound". The Choctaw phrase for “playing a flute” is uskala olachi (Byington 1915: 453).

In the past, Choctaw flutes were used somewhat differently from the forms that flutes, even Native American flutes, are generally used today. Records indicate that at the time of European arrival, the most powerful chiefs in the Southeast had flutists in their stands, who played the flute to welcome guests. It is likely that some ancestral Choctaw chiefs, such as Tvshkalusa, had flute players as well. Also during this period, the first Chickasaw, and probably also the Choctaw ancestors, played flutes on the battlefield before making an attack (see Swanton 1946: 628-629). However, in the last two centuries, and perhaps ever since, flutes were part of the Choctaw society, and mainly used as a tool of the Choctaw medicine people. There is little evidence to suggest that Choctaw's flutes were traditionally played during courtship, as they were by the western lowland tribes. In fact, at least some of the Choctaw men who used them made efforts to keep their flutes away from women (Howard and Levine1990: 30).

Most Choctaw flutes were traditionally made from large pieces of river cane about 1 inch in diameter. Different Tribes have different finger hole traditions and arrangements. Most Choctaw flutes have two finger holes. Most flutes made by other tribes in the southeast have between zero and three finger holes, while flutes made by lowland tribes have five or six finger holes. The choctaw flutes are played by placing the mouth over the upper end of the flute and blowing through it. When the air reaches the solid knot, it is forced out of the upper hole and onto a thin cane splint attached to the outside of the flute. This causes the splint to vibrate and make a sound. This sound resonates through the lower chamber of the flute. The player's two index fingers can be used to connect one or both finger holes. This effectively changes the size of the lower chamber of the flute, creating sound from different pitches. The player can also plug the large hole at the base of the flute to obtain another tone. Different hand movements to cover the end of the flute are used by the player as notes to create a song (Byington 2010).

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