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Discovering the Guiro

One of the most whimsical and interesting percussion instruments available today may look, and sound, like a frog. This frog, or guiro, has multiple rivets in its back on which a stick is dragged back and forth to make a unique sound; the tone varies depending on the size of the frog. Nowadays, the guiro can be found in many shapes, sizes, and materials.

Though it is difficult to pinpoint the origins of the guiro, it is believed to have initially belonged to one of the native groups in the Caribbean. One of the groups being the Taino, whose stories indicate that the guiro maybe had its first go in Puerto Rico. What is important to realize about the Guiro is that no matter where it started, its presence throughout Central and South America is still going strong, influencing and connecting these cultures with music that fits in your hand. Even countries such as Cuba appreciate the guiro. With a Santeria ceremony still practiced throughout Cuba focusing on gourds, our little frog friend is still present in their culture and music. The Guiro has a talent for interconnecting the Southern American countries and even, due to its relation with Cuba, may also connect the guiro with African culture, music, and religious practices.

The guiro is recognized mostly in Latin American Folk and Salsa music. The rhythmic ticking occurs when a stick (known as a pua) is dragged along the crest-like indentations. Traditionally the guiro was a hallowed gourd that was open at one end with a hole for the thumb of your non-dominant hand to maintain a grip. The instrument has evolved over the years though, and can now be found in multiple styles varying with region and artist.

Today, we can find that the guiro makes its way in any sort of material such as wood, fiber glass, metal and so forth. Some are even adapted with things such as shakers in order to help the sound and quality of the instrument. The guiro can be used in many venues, but is also found within drum circles, being used by singers, or even any performance wear a hand percussion instrument may be appropriate.

This little frog has hopped its way through years of music and culture, maintaining connections and enhancing the music it is involved in as well as the countries the music has originated from. These connections are important and play a large role in the cultures this instrument has touched.

28th Oct 2014

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