If you have ever experienced the unique sound of the Shekere, you know it is more than a fancy rattle. The sounds it can produce through shaking and striking its varied surfaces bring more than a shaker sound to music, but can also give a unique depth to the rhythms and sounds produced by other percussion instruments.
The Shekere is traditionally made from a hollow gourd, also called calabash, and has been traditionally used as a vessel for water in Africa, but can now be seen used for birdhouses in the modern United States. In Africa, Asia, and the Americas, it is common to use gourds as a basis for many musical instruments because of their size, shape and sound when struck or otherwise played.
The best gourds to use when making your own Shekere are bottle gourds such as Kettle Gourds, Canteen Gourds or Penguin Gourds, as these will have the best size, thickness of shell and shape needed for a great-sounding Shekere. All Shekeres have "skirts" decorated with beads, shells, seeds or other materials, each lending a unique tone to the instrument, just as the differences in sizes and shapes of the gourds themselves can also create diverse sounds. Smaller gourds have softer sounds, while larger gourds with thin shells can be quite loud.
A naturally-made Shekere is truly a one-of-a-kind instrument, but if you are short on time or desire to make your own, or want a uniform tone for groups, a fiberglass Shekere can definitely give you the sound you want.
When it is time to incorporate a new feel into your music or drumming, pick up a Shekere and see what sounds you can produce by shaking or striking it. Pair it up with a set of Bongos or enhance your latest Djembe rhythms with its scratchy sounds and unique beats. With its history and ease of playing, the Shekere can easily become one of your favorite percussion instruments.