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Moseno Flute

Variant spellings of this unique wind instrument include Moceño, Moxeño and Mohoceño, and there are great variations in Moseño size, but the most easily recognized of these fipple flutes is the low, bass Moseño with its external mouthpiece pipe. Believed to have originated in the Canton de Mohosa, Bolivia, the Moseño originates amongst the Aymara-speaking Peoples and is central to the matrimonial Mosenada Dance. This unusual transverse bamboo flute has a full, compassionate tone when played that is very stirring to hear. This article contains photos, videos, maps, detailed information, a flutemaker comparison chart, and more to increase your understanding and appreciation of the Bolivian Moseño Flute.


Moseño Flute


This original illustration depicts a plain but beautifully made Moseño flute. Note the external pipe mouthpiece and the unusual placement of the tone holes.


Moseños come in both upright and transverse forms in a variety of sizes. They are typically made of bamboo.



Click Images for Enlarged View

Moseño Flute Photo

This photograph depicts decorative moseños which have been painted red and embellished with white designs. It is important to remember that some ornate moseños are made for the tourist trade and may not be the best for actual playing.

Photo Credit: YouTube

Moseño Flute Photo

This photograph depicts Argentinean flutemaker, Gonzalo Ceballos, demonstrating the way a moseño flute is held and played. The moseño is one of the few transverse Indigenous flutes on the American continents.

Photo Credit: YouTube




Talented Flutist Adrián Altamura playing Moseño


Gentleman demonstrating higher pitched Moseño


The Mosenada Dance of Bolivia


Flute maker Angel Sampedro del Rio playing a Moseño


Map of Mohosa, Bolivia  

A Map of Mohosa, origin of the Moseño flute, in the Sica Sica region of Bolivia.

To date, there is little agreement amongst flute makers and musicians as to the exact antiquity of the Moseño Flute; you will find it being referenced as both a pre-Columbian and post-Columbian instrument. However, it is generally agreed upon that this wind instrument was first made by the Aymara-speaking peoples in the Canton de Mohosa of Bolivia, south of La Paz. The alternate spelling of this flute, Mohoceño, corroborates this opinion, though some past researchers have mistakenly concluded that the flute originated in the city of Moxos.


Further mystery surrounds the true origins of the Moseño Flute because of its striking similarity to a flute called the Fujara which is found today in Slovakia. The near-match in construction and tone between the Fujara and Moseño flutes has lead to debate as to whether the Indigenous Bolivians may have been influenced, perhaps during the Renaissance, by flutes brought to South America by European invaders.

At Native Flutes Walking, we would like to point out that reconstructed history often errs on the side of being Euro-centric, and that it should also be considered that the Fujara might have arisen in Europe due to travelers' encounters with the Moseño in the 'New World'. Such a hypothesis is not at all far-fetched when one considers that another native flute, the Ocarina, became a popular instrument in 1527 when Hernan Cortez sent a group of Aztec musicians and dancers to the court of Charles V. Might not the Moseño/Fujara likeness be the result of similar contact? The Fujara is considered to be an anomaly, developed in isolation as a strange surprise in Slovakia. Could this instrument be so unusual on the European musical instrument scene because it owes its origins to a completely different continent? More research into the history of both flutes is needed to reach more sound conclusions.


What is known is that early Moseño flutes were tuned to a high register, unlike the most commonly found low-register Moseños today. Both upright and transversal (played held crosswise) Moseño flutes are traditional in this beautiful region of valleys, plateaus and mountains, and the length of the flutes vary from approximately 20 to 60 inches. Likewise, the number of holes in a Moseño may be as few as 3 and as many as 6 or more. The ingenious mounted mouthpiece tube on the largest, transversal Moseños enables the flutist to place his mouth in comfortable proximity to his hands as the sound holes are covered and uncovered. Like the Quena Flute of the Andes, and often grouped with it, the Moseño is commonly tuned to the modern diatonic scale.


Moseños are generally played in ensembles, with different musicians playing fifths and octaves above the base notes with a mix of both upright and transversal Moseños. The traditional use of these ensembles was for nuptial ceremonies. Typically taking place at night in Indigenous Bolivian villages, musicians would form a procession ending in a meeting between the prospective bride and groom's parents who would then publicly agree to the proposed marriage.

Modern musicians are extremely fortunate to have the Moseño as a choice of wind instrument. Its existence today is owing to the determination and hardihood of the Indigenous Bolivians who have survived devastating invasion and oppression. The Sica Sica region of Bolivia where the Moseño Flute is considered to have originated, is home to the martyred culture hero, Tupac Catari. This brave Aymara Indian fomented a successful rebellion and laid siege to the city of La Paz in the 1780s before his capture and execution at the hands of the Spanish. It has taken many individual acts of heroism by countless Indigenous Bolivians to keep their language and cultural traditions intact and when you hear or play the Moseño, you are hearing the story of survival against the odds.

Moseño Photo

Variety of moseños being played in a Mosenada parade.
Photo Credit: YouTube

Moseño Photo

Modern flutemaker Àngel Sampedro del Rió playing a Moseño
Photo Credit: YouTube

Travelers to Bolivia may be lucky enough to attend the Carnaval festival in the week preceding Lent, 40 days before Easter. Part of the festivities include the Danza Mosenada (Mosenada Dance) in which young men and women form a parade that includes both dancing and ensembles of Moseño flutes of all sizes. Recent recognition of the important part instruments like the Moseño play in folk history has also made it possible for locals and natives to see the Mosenada Dance performed professionally in Bolivian halls and theaters.


In rural Bolivia, you will still encounter the high-pitched Moseño flutes, believed to be the most traditional form, but throughout the Andes you will find examples of these flutes and in Argentina, the tradition of the bass, transverse Moseño is especially common.

Ensemble playing is still the most prevalent use of the Moseño, but its beautiful tone is leading many modern flutists to view it as a solo instrument. To Western ears, the higher pitched Moseños may have a slightly shrill, harsh sound, but those of lower pitch have an deeply appealing, spiritual tone, somewhat like the Anasazi Flute/Ancestral Pueblo Flute of the American Southwest.


Materials Used in Moseño Construction
Modern Moseños are constructed of bamboo and may be quite plain, or lavishly decorated with painted or carved designs. In buying a Moseño, it is important to understand that fancy trappings do not necessarily guarantee quality, and Moseño enthusiasts caution visitors to South America to be aware that many Moseños are poorly made for the tourist trade. Ideally, you would be able to play any Moseño you are considering buying before actually purchasing it, and if you live in a cosmopolitan North American city, your local musical instrument store may even stock a Moseño or two. More typically, however, native flute enthusiasts will be going online to find a Moseño flute maker and the following chart will help you connect with craftsmen and importers who offer these flutes.


*Please note: the more unusual a flute of Central and South America is, the more valuable a knowledge of the Spanish language will be to flute players seeking it. Some of the sites listed here are in Spanish only, and require that you contact the owner for prices and availability.

Company Native Made? Flutemaker Price Range Materials Special Features Additional Offerings Additional Notes
Un Mundo de Bambu Native-made Àngel Sampedro del Rió Contact for Price Bamboo Different sizes of Moseños Many kinds of flutes and instruments Located in Argentina. Website is bilingual.
Visit Site »
Kaypacha Native-made Gonzalo Ceballos Contact for Price Bamboo Professionally-made Argentinean moseños Many kinds of flutes and instruments Website is bilingual.
Visit Site »
Flautas Heredia Native-made Rolando González Heredia Contact for Price Bamboo Extremely beautiful, simple moseños Other wind instruments Located in Veracruz, Mexico. Website in Spanish only.
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Latin American Institute Unknown but Made in Peru Unknown $16 Bamboo Painted with handsome designs Other Peruvian instruments and gifts The Latin American Institute is located in New York. Website in English.
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Bolivia Mall Unknown but Made in Bolivia Unknown $25 - $80 Bamboo Offers plain and decorative moseños plus a set of 11 flutes This importer offers extensive Bolivian gift shopping Website in English.
Visit Site »

The Aymara People have inhabited the Altiplano and Andes of Bolivia, Peru and Chile for thousands of years and some 2,000,000 still call this majestic region home. In their more recent history, the Aymara Peoples became subjects of Inca rule and it is actually speculated that the secret language of the Inca lords was a form of Aymara. Rich in history, tradition and culture, the Aymara Peoples have so much that is inspiring and educational to share with the world. Flutes like the Moseño, the Tarka, the Siku and the Quena all hail from the South American Continent and are considered to be irreplaceable treasures of the ancient world.


For the Aymara Peoples, the traditional spiritual value of the Moseño extends in an unbroken line from past to present, and with the growing modern interest in Indigenous and World Music, the music of flutes like these is now being heard and celebrated around the globe. This cross-cultural exchange of instruments has the potential to spark new traditions amongst new groups of people. For example, understanding that the sound of the Moseño is linked to nuptial rites, a music-loving couple in the United States might decide to arrange to have this flute played at their wedding. Or, folk music groups in North America might acquire and learn to play the Moseño flute and ask to participate in their own local parades and festivals.


In the United States, we tend to hear very little news of the lives of the Indigenous People of South America who have overcome so many hardships. Their story is worth listening to, and if you find yourself drawn to Andean music, your sense of gratitude and goodwill towards these southern neighbors may greatly enrich your enjoyment of music. While a Moseño will not likely be the first flute a beginning native flute player should buy, musicians with an ever-widening interest in the flutes of the Americas will want to one day add this very unique wind instrument to their repertoire.

Recommended Books and Films on Andean History

  • Music in the Andes: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture, Thomas Torino
  • Moving Away from Silence: Music of the Peruvian Altiplano and the Experience of Urban Migration, Thomas Torino
  • 1491, Charles C. Mann
  • On VHS: The Incas: The Wonders of the Inca Civilization, (Odyssey) 1980

Recommended Moseño Resources

Recommended Websites about Native American Music


The Moseño May Be Right For You If...

  • You have Indigenous ancestry
  • You respect and admire Andean cultures
  • You are ready to add a really different flute to your collection
  • You want an instrument on which you can improve with practice
  • You enjoy strong tones
  • You love Andean folk music
  • You feel you have music inside you waiting to come out signature flute bird

Native Flutes Walking wishes you joy through music, and a good journey along the Native flute path.