Although it’s a truly unique and amazing–sounding instrument, there’s very little information available about the history of gourd water drums. It’s clear that they are used in certain areas in Africa and that they show up in Mayan archives as “bubulek” water drums. In present day Mexico they are called jicara de agua and their history can also be traced to the Yaqui and Yoeme Indigenous people who called these floating gourd water drums, baa wehai.
What, exactly is a gourd water drum? Generally made from 3 sturdy pieces of dried gourds, a small ring holds the larger “gourd bowl”, up-side-down in place. That larger gourd is filled with water. The smaller gourd is placed right-side-up, gently on the water’s surface where it is hit with a stick or tapped with fingers, palms or knuckles to create the unique, deep and resonant sound associated with this instrument.
While checking out LA born drummer and percussionist, Christopher Garcia, we found some really great information on the Yaqui and Yoeme roots of floating gourd water drums. Although several musicologists identify this drum as part of the Yaqui Deer Dance (Mazotiwua), Garcia explains how a special beater is used called a baa jiponia, made from a stick wrapped in a corn husk. He also shares some great pictures and basic information on a related instrument, called hirukiam which consist of a gourd facing down and a rasp laid across it, then scraped. The result is a “natural speaker” and another really unique sound creation. Links to Christopher Garcia’s music and website can be found below.
Watch this video from Germany and you’ll be able to both see and hear several techniques for playing the gourd water drum:
Michael Heralda of Aztec Stories Shows You How To Make A Gourd Water Drum
Also a wealth of information on ancient Mexican culture and musical traditions, Michael Heralda has two informative step-by-step videos that show you how to create your own gourd water drums. You’ll notice that his drums not only sound good, but are beautifully decorated. For more information on his music, instruments, stories and other resources, visit the link below.
Here are his two gourd water drum-making videos from Youtube:
Michael Heralda’s Making A Gourd Water Drum – Part One
Michael Heralda’s Making A Gourd Water Drum – Part Two
Links and Resources
Christopher Garcia’s BAA WEHAI webpage
Christopher Garcia’s Indigenous Instruments webpage
Michael Heralda’s Aztec Stories Website