This blog is dedicated to the sublime instruments called nose flutes and which produce the most divine sound ever. We have chosen to discard all the native models from S. Pacific and Asia, for they need fingering to be played. We'll concentrate on "buccal cavity driven" nose flutes : the well patented and trademarked metal or plastic ones, plus, by a condemnable indulgence, some wooden craft or home-made productions.

Oct 18, 2014

Thai Nose Flutes by Kwan

A new nose flute maker in the landscape: Kwan! And a new country on the market: Thailand.

Kwan is a young woman from the south of Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand, who's been making pottery for some 15 years. She produced different kind of dishes, but her specialty is whistles, ocarinas and... nose flutes. Those are made of a mix of clay and sand, and are neatly hand painted to resemble joyful and laughing (and whistling) little skulls.

Photos by Ethical Bazaar:

I ordered a nice bunch of them at Ethical Bazaar, a very cool shop based in Thailand and founded by Delphine de Sanglier, a french woman at the beginning of 2014. Ethical Bazaar sells local craftsmanship artefacts.

« Yes, Ethical Bazaar has been founded by me this year, in february, and the website is online since August (...) The idea is to create a link between the buyer and the craftsman, to tell and share their daily life. (...) More and more people want to know how are made the things they buy, in which conditions and the craftsmen are very happy too to know that people use and like the fruit of their work ».

Kwan's nose flutes look very much like the small sugar skulls that the Mexicans make for the Day of the Dead, in order to honor the deceased.

Traditional Mexican skulls:

« Long time ago, in Northern Thailand, the inhabitants were using an ocarina-type instrument with two holes, and the shape was looking like a skull. Kwan liked the idea to reuse this reference with the addition of flowers, hearts and lots of colors for the flutes to be pretty, look joyful and with the purpose to remove the fear of the ghosts. And the shape of the nose flute go well with this!».

I received my order rather quickly. The little nose flutes were individually packed in a cellophane sack, with a small sticker on which was printed the "user manual" with the strict minimum (but basically sufficient) instructions.

Kwan's nose flutes are small and totally handmade (no mould to shape them), and thus are truly unique. They are hand painted and provided equipped with a nice neck cord ornated with color pearls. Their back is painted in black, and it seems that they are now signed (some from my order were, some weren't).

On a playability and technical side, the nose flutes by Kwan range from rather good to good, depending on the flute, but anyway a bit "windy" due to a broad mouth hole. As totally hand made, each flute has its own very shape and characteristics, but also depending on your own physiognomy. The nose air collector is shaped according to asian standards, as the Japanese flutes, making hermeticity difficult for european noses with a hard and low columella. But the clay is worked with a great care, and the airway is precise and clean. The fipple may vary in size and specifications, but here too, the work is rather clean.

Here is a short sound sample:

As we wrote above, those nose flutes are painted and ornated with care. Each one is unique. And other designs may be mabe on demand. But the best part is that these nose flute are very affordable: $14 (shipping included!) on this page. They could make very nice gifts for Christmas... and for Christmas, Kwan made a series of new nose flutes, here are the first samples (that should be released soon on the Ethical Bazaar page:

Photo by Ethical Bazaar:


  1. Great job! Very clever design that also immediately reminded me of the Mexican skulls. The turquoise on the top right and the lilac left below that one, from the first picture (of 12), and the middle bottom of the last picture are the most attractive ones to me. Very appealing work and neat handicraft! I think the sound excerpt indicates that this type of nose flute (in ceramic in general) is particularly good in the bass department.

    1. Thank you for your comment. Yes, They are (good n the bass dept) and I should have made another recording...

    2. Beautiful babies! And how lucky is the person that gets a purple painted one :) absolutely adorable!!!

  2. Quite bizarre that such a neat object is sold at such an affordable rate! It is great value for money and should sell really well. Ethic Bazaar, right?

    1. They are even cheaper : when you buy 5 of them, they are à $10 (shipping included) each. Thailand is a very poor country, and life is very cheap there...