Question about the pūtōrino

According to the description on MusicBrainz, the pūtōrino can be “played as both a flute (female voice) and a trumpet (male voice).” I can’t figure out what that means or how it works (and I have to, or else I can’t translate it), so I hope @ApeKattQuest_MonkeyPython or someone else could shine some light on this.

I know some instruments can be polyphonic (ie they can play different melodies at the same time), but this seems to be something else.

The pūtōrino can be played either as a side-blown flute or an end-blown flute. This is because the air’s exit hole is also an embouchure hole.

In this context, “as a flute” means in the orientation of a transverse flute (which is blown from the side), and “as a trumpet” means in the orientation of a trumpet (which is blown from the end). The pitch is a little different depending on which hole is used as the embouchure hole.


Thank you. How should I interpret “male voice” and “female voice” though? Is it just the pitch?

I believe that is what the author meant, but I don’t know why they characterised the sounds as male and female. Maybe for reasons related to Maori culture? It has nothing to do with the pitch of the player’s voice since the instrument is played with the breath only—and blowing from the end does not necessarily produce a lower pitch: It could be a higher pitch.

The trumpet/flute comparison might be because in the West the pūtōrino has been called a trumpet-flute or bugle-flute.


Ok, I’ll ignore the male/female characterisation and base my translation on your description. Thanks again!

Māori have very gendered traditional roles, particularly for formal welcomes/occasions etc, so this is not that surprising.
Not sure if this is helpful:

"It has two distinct traditional voices - the male voice is a the trumpeting note used to sound a summons or to signal something happening; the female voice, produced when the instrument is played sideways like a flute or blown over the top, is a crying sound, and was used for this on appropriate occasions such as a Tangi (funeral); consequently, the instrument has also been called a bugle flute."


hi! sorry for the long wait
@sibilant is correct in their explanation!
In the traditional Māori culture, instruments were interstitially linked to absolutely everything, from day to day actions like hunting to the very core of their religion and creation mythos. Instruments were not just dead tools, but alive, living things, each instrument was an individual with it’s own name.
Pūtōrinoes are “both female and male” hence the two “voices” aka the two ways of blowing into it - just as sibilant explained.

For a more in-depth explanation I recommend the excellent Taonga Pūoro book by Brian Flintoff

A video in which Richard Nunns plays and explains about the Pūtōrino
Another article

Sorry for going so into depth about this here, but, in adding these instruments I read the entire book and every article I came across as I became more and more absorbed in how the traditional Māori instruments and music fitted into their lives, their religion, and how it was almost lost, but due to these people was luckily recovered.

Wanting to communicate this succinctly was also part of the reason for the wait.Thank you again sibilant for answering. :​​)



I work at a library in New Zealand, so if anyone has any specific questions they want to have looked up, put to the heritage team, or even to the Marae (Māori community, more or less), let me know.