This is a bamboo flute with three holes and a mouth opening (pagoma) that is similar to that of a panpipe.
It is considered a purely feminine instrument and it is closely connected to life and death; in fact, the instrument appears in the myth surrounding the funeral ritual along with its masculine counterpart, the popondo. It is also considered a powerful instrument of love, and it was mentioned to me several times that: When you play the tulali men come to you.
Indo Pino herself told me that: Once I was playing the tulali in my house, and my husband came and he already knew what to do.
As Sachs notes, “Owing to its tubular shape, it represents the penis” (Sachs 1962: 95). This connection between flutes and sex is present in many cultures, although usually the flute is considered a masculine and not a feminine instrument, the flute seems to have charming powers everywhere. “Among American Indians, the flute belongs greatly to lovers and love […] Among the Sioux, young men in love learn the flute so they may woo their girls in the proper way” (Sachs 1962: 95). Likewise, the Temiar of Malaysia use the instrument in courtship (Roseman 2008: 320).
Use of the tulali is disappearing among Wana people; only a few old women still know how to build and play it, but most no longer have the breath to play it fluently. However, one particular melody for this instrument seems to be well known. In fact, Indo Pino, who was considered the best Wana flute player, knew only one melody, although she told me that she played it differently on different flutes. This indicates that musical diversity is achieved more through articulating the individual tones of a melody differently on subsequent occasions rather than through adopting different melodies or structures.
Tulali can be decorated with rando (decorations) of geometric patterns. After engraving, they are coloured white with a powder derived from molluscs.