The Pacay Shaker – A Rattle That Grows On A Tree

pacay shaker on redMany musical instruments are made from natural materials.

A few actually are the raw materials and can be played as instruments in their natural form.  For instance, the pacay shaker is the seed pod of a large, beautiful tree that also creates the pacay fruit and bean – both foods used by Central and South American people dating back to Incan times!

So, what is a pacay tree?  When fully grown, it can tower up to 60 feet and produces long seed pods – some over a foot in length.  The ripe, bright green fruit are picked and eaten in two ways.  The white fiber between the seeds is eaten as the fruit and the seeds are used in much the same way as any bean.  A website called Phoenix Tropicals has lots of great growing tips about this warm climate tree for anyone interested in growing it outside of it’s native Central or South America.

pacay fruit - ripeWhat does the fruit of the pacay taste like?  It’s sometimes called the ”ice cream bean” and people describe the fiber as “sweet” and “refreshing”. The seeds are also eaten. In Central America, the seeds are cooked and served like a bean or other vegetable.  In Mexico, the seeds are roasted and sold as snacks or treats.  And – obviously – if the seed pods are left to dry, the beans dry inside the pod and create the shaking and rattling sound that turns this from a food into a musical instrument.

Pacay Shaker in Josef's HandHow do you play a pacay shaker?  Rattle it back and forth up and down, start slowly and build a crescendo.  Hold it in one hand and tap it against the other.  Or just sit back and admire it as a work of art of nature – one more of it’s beautiful and useful creations.

Links

Wkipedia Page Containing Historic Information on the Pacay Tree

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inga_feuilleei

Phoenix Tropicals – Growing Tips and Good General Information on Pacay Trees

http://www.phoenixtropicals.com/pacay.html

Green Pacay Fruit Picture (above) used by permission from Phoenix Tropical

 

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Music, Culture, Prizes and More at the Hispanic Heritage Month Blog Hop!

Although it isn’t exclusively about music, the blog hop listed by Multicultural Kid Blogs Hispanic Heritage Blog Hop has some incredible resources, great activities and fantastic prizes perfect for all ages and interests.

Discover new activities, songs, books, crafts and foods that educators and parents are sharing to celebrate this month marking the contributions of Hispanic cultures to the world.

http://multiculturalkidblogs.com/2013/09/15/hispanic-heritage-month-blog-hop/

2013 National Hispanic Heritage Month is September 15 – October 15th!

National Hispanic Heritage Month was created in the USA under President Lyndon Johnson as a way to recognize contributions of Latin-American and Hispanic peoples to our country’s heritage.  In Washington D.C., it is celebrated by a series of presentations, exhibits and activities but a variety of free resources are available at the government site that are used widely across the country and throughout the year.

The starting date for this month (September 15th) is a bit unusual and many people wonder why it begins in the middle of a month.  The dates of September 15th to October 15th were chosen because they reflects a time period when eight Latin American countries declared their independence.  Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Niceragua declared their independence on September 15th.  September 16th, 18th and the 21st  mark the dates when Mexico, Chile, and Belize did so as well.

Participating in this month of education and celebration are the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

For a complete listing of resources, events and activities, including a section on teaching Hispanic heritage, visit the official website at the link below.  For a series of musical crafts and activities that originate in Hispanic culture as well as two musical instrument give-aways, visit DARIA’s world music for children site below.

Official Site – Hispanic Heritage Month

http://hispanicheritagemonth.gov

Hispanic Music, Musical Instruments and Crafts

http://www.dariamusic.com/monthly_song.php

It’s A Caxixi!

caxixis 4 lying downCaxixi (pronounced ka-shee-shee) rattles are beautifully woven, small, hand percussion instruments that can be found in Africa and South America.  These simple rattles have a flat piece on the bottom originally made from a dried gourd.  Modern caxixis can have plastic or metal bottoms as well.  The rest of the rattle is a woven “basket” that holds small items which create the sound when it is shaken. The basket area is made of pliable fiber and can be one color or beautiful patterns of colors woven together.  Some caxixis have two baskets attached to one handle.

Although this instrument may look quite simple, a caxixi rattle can make a wide variety of sounds.  You can shake the contents against the softer side of the woven rattle for one sound or against the harder bottom part for another tone.  Skilled percussionists can create some really intricate rhythms with caxixis and they are often used by singers in West Africa when performing with a drum group.  In Brazil, the caxixi is often seen creating the percussion sound for a unique stringed instrument called a birembau.

On modern jazz recordings, you can frequently hear the caxixi played by Brazilian percussionist, vocalist and berimbau player, Naná Vasconcelos.

Make Your Own Caxixi

If you are up for some serious crafting, a Brazilian site called Soul Capoeira shows you how to make real caxixis from fiber and gourds at the post below.  If you’d like to try an easier version from recycled materials – a great project for kids – check out the post from Tiny Tapping Toes, below.

During the month of August 2013, you can win a caxixi rattle in an easy Rafflecopter contest here:

http://www.dariamusic.com/monthly_song.php

Links

Soul Capoeira’s Make Your Own Caxixi Post – From Reeds or Rattan and Gourd Shells

http://soulcapoeira.org/music/how-to-make-a-caxixi/

Make Your Own Caxixi From Recycled Materials

http://www.tinytappingtoes.com/uncategorized/make-your-own-woven-caxixi-rattle/