Bead Your Own African Shekere

traditional-shekeres-from-around-the-world- A shekere (or sekere) is a beautiful and unique instrument originating in West Africa that appears in various shapes, sizes and forms throughout the continent of Africa.  Made from a simple dried gourd with a beaded “skirt”, shekeres are a great addition to any environment where children are learning about music or world cultures.

mini shekere for storeIf you’re finding it hard to locate or purchase a shekere for your classroom, home or homeschool, you might consider making your own.  Other then the dried gourd, the additional materials are easy to find and the beading process is “easy to moderate” for beginning crafters.  In fact, since the stringing and beading is the part of the process that generates the most questions and confusion, we’ve partnered with Carrie P. from a wonderful blog called Crafty Moms Share to develop a step-by-step tutorial for making your own dried gourd shekere.  (Complete gourd tutorial and other related shekere posts can be found at the links below).

beads for shekere kitsBeads, Seeds, Nuts or Seashells

Along with beads, almost any small, roundish, rattling object can be used as the noise-makers on a shekere.  If you take a close look at the shekeres pictured above, you’ll notice beads as well as seeds woven into the netting.  In Africa, some shekeres also use seashells or hard seeds or nuts with holes drilled though them as part of their unique design.

Add Some String

The skirt of a shekere is created from a type of string or twine that is durable and will not break or stretch.  Since cotton twine will stretch, nylon or hemp is a better choice for creating a working shekere.  Because the top circle or collar of the netting holds all the other strings in place, some craftspeople pick a thicker string for this or braid the twine for a more durable start to the project.

shekere skirt no beadsAnd Some Knots!

With your collar in place around the gourds neck, you are ready to add the strings.

Cut a number of strings (enough to fit around the gourd) approximately 30 inches long.  Fold each string in half and make a slip knot with it around the collar.  To make a slip knot, put the folded string under the collar with the fold on top and then bring the ends through the loop of the fold and collar and tighten.

Once you have all the strings you desire in place you will tie a loop knot to secure each location. A loop knot is where you make a “6” with your strings and bring the end through the loop of it. This is the type of knot we will be using for the rest of the project.

starting to beadAdd The Beads

Here are Carrie’s great suggestions for getting the hang of adding beads to the skirt:

Adding the beads is where you creativity really comes into play.

You can do many different things with the beads. Some put a bead on each string, others put two strings through a bead. Some put a single bead between knots and others go up to three beads before knotting. The important thing is to work with a string from two different knots.

Once you have your bead(s) in place, tie a loose loop knot. I re-started many of mine because I did not like how the first round looked and found they lay better with looser knots.  Do an entire round before starting the next.

Once you have one round complete, start the next.  Stay consistent with however you’ve started with beads and knots, but again you want to use strings from different knots. This will bring the beads in the first round closer together. Continue doing a round at a time until you have the skirt you want.

finishing the bottomFinish The Instrument!

Here are Carrie’s two descriptions for two methods of finishing the skirt and completing the shekere:

Method 1: The first is to have another loop similar to the collar (braided if you used braided) and the same size. Then you tie your ends to the loop so it hangs loosely below the gourd.

Method 2: If your gourd is small you can take an 8-inch string and tie the ends together. This is easier to do with another person holding your shekere for you to tie them together.

colorful kids shekere beadedMaking Music!

If you take a look at the resources below you’ll find many wonderful ways to check out the sound of traditional shekeres or explore music with the ones you’ve created.

Enjoy!

Complete Tutorials

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Make-Your-Own-Shekere-African-Percussion-Instrument-Tutorial-992550

http://dariasvillagestore.storenvy.com/collections/34585-all-products/products/4084121-make-your-own-shekere-african-instrument-tutorial

tall-and-thin-sekere--PMLinks and Resources

Hear A Shekere
http://www.dariamusic.com/shekere.php

Color a Shekere Online
http://www.dariamusic.com/color_Shekere.php

Carries Crafty Moms Share Blog
craftymomsshare.blogspot.com/‎

Sekere.com – Beaded Sekeres from Master Craftswoman, Sara Fabunmi
http://www.sekere.com

Cultural Value of the Shekere, Article By Sara Fabunmi
https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/the-cultural-value-of-the-sekere/

Make a Classroom Shekere (From A Gourd)
http://tinytappingtoes.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/easy-gourd-shekere-for-a-child-or-a-classroom/

Make a Recycled Shekere (From A Milk Jug)
http://www.dariamusic.com/make_Shekere.php

An Alphabet Shekere Game
http://www.trueaimeducation.com/2012/10/guest-post-learning-letters-with-an-alphabet-shekere.html

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African Roots of the Banjo

Most people associate the banjo with bluegrass music or with the culture of the rural South of the United States.  But if you dig a bit deeper, it appears that the banjo has African roots.  In fact, most scholars and music historians trace the banjo back to amazing, creative “banjo ancestors” found in various regions of Africa.

If you’d like to learn more about the cross-cultural travels of the banjo, check out the resources below.

           

NPR Reconsiders The Roots of The Banjo

In a short podcast, NPR’s Greg Allen tells to story of Gambian musician, Laemouahuma Daniel Jatta and his banjo-like akonting.  The akonting has three strings, a long neck as a fretboard and a main sounding area made from a gourd stretched with goatskin.  Jatta, who learned the instrument from his father, belong to the Jola people and the similarities of this instrument to modern American banjos are explored in this short audio podcast with great photos and a striking Youtube video.

The Banjo’s Roots Reconsidered

http://www.npr.org/2011/08/23/139880625/the-banjos-roots-reconsidered

Bela Fleck’s Throw Down Your Heart

Acclaimed US banjo player, Bela Fleck was so intrigued with the banjo’s roots that he took a trip to Africa to make his own comparisons.  The result was a documentary called “Throw Down Your Heart” which follows Bela’s journey and offers interviews with African master musicians as well as plenty of jam sessions between instruments.  The short excerpt below gives you a taste of this cross-cultural banjo experience.

African “Banjo” Music and Bluegrass

Want to compare African “banjo” music and bluegrass?  Here’s Banjo Bloggers list of top 10 songs that can illustrate bluegrass banjo music.  Checking out these tunes can show you some striking similarities and differences between the musical styles of both continents.

http://banjoblogger.com/?p=125

 

Make Your Own African-Style Tongue Rattle

The beautiful, wide and diverse continent of Africa has some truly amazing and clever musical creations. One of my favorites is a small percussion instrument called a tongue rattle.  Generally made from carved wood, the rattle is shaken quickly back and forth and a “tongue” within the two carved sides makes a noise like a person who just can’t stop talking.

It’s loud, funny, clever and a great way to allow kids to explore making rhythms and creating music.

A Few Simple Supplies

To make a homemade version of a tongue rattle, you need two (same size) plastic or styrofoam cups, tape, two twist-ties, yarn or string and some small items for making noise inside the cups. Beads, paper clips, buttons or metal washers all work perfectly for this craft.

Assemble Your Rattle

To make your cups work like a tongue rattle, turn them over and poke two holes in the top.  Next, fold a small twist-tie in half. Then, take a small string or a piece of embroidery thread and string beads, buttons or other noise-makers onto it and tie it into a circle.  Slip the string circle with the noise-makers onto the twist tie and twist that into place, attaching it inside the cup.  Adjust your string for size so that it will rattle about an inch or so from the far end of the cup. Here’s a picture of what that might look like.

Once you’ve assembled both cups, place them together and tape them up.  Now you’re set to move your hand back and forth and get the same kind of sound that’s made by one of these unusual African instruments.

Different Sounds From Different Materials

If you want to make several rattles you can compare how different ones might sound.  A rattle made with two plastic cups using heavier beads or metal washers as noise-makers may be rather loud.  A rattle made with two styrofoam cups and plastic paper clips may be a bit quieter.  You may want to experiment with what’s inside that creates sound or what’s on the outside as decoration for your musical creation.

Play Your Tongue Rattle

To play a tongue rattle, flick your wrist back and forth while holding it.  Play it slowly.  Play it quickly.  Or try something tricky like starting slowly, going faster and faster and then come to a complete stop. Sounds cool – doesn’t it?

After you’ve discovered some of the sounds your rattle can make, put on some of your favorite music and play along.  See if you can play in time with the beat or match the rhythm you’re hearing.  You might be surprised at how this simple instrument can really speak to you!

Win a Carved African Tongue Rattle

During October 2012 we’re giving away a really cool tongue rattle plus two other African instruments.  You can learn more and enter here:

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

More Crafty Musical Fun From Africa And Around The World

Explore a shekere made from a dried gourd or a recycled milk jug.  Turn bobby pins into a working mbira thumb piano.  Make the type of ceremonial instruments found in the hieroglyphics of Ancient Egypt. Find all this and more at:

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

THE CULTURAL VALUE OF THE SEKERE

A musical instrument like the sekere (also written as shekere) carries with it the music and tradition of it’s country and its culture. This month we have gourds and gourd instruments as part of our website features so we are pleased to have a special guest column from sekere maker; Sara ‘Fabunmi, a true master craftswoman and tradition bearer of African culture.

Thanks to Sara for sharing her insight into her artwork and how this instrument promotes culture and creative expression. 

THE CULTURAL VALUE OF THE SEKERE
If I were ever asked to choose my most valuable and fulfilling creative activity, handicrafts would have to be my first choice. Since childhood, I have pursued many forms of creative expression, but, as an adult, one of my favorite crafting pleasures has been making the sekere.  I also take much pleasure in teaching others the craft, history and use of the instrument.  The flexibility of the sekere provides an easy and enjoyable way for participants to develop creative independence.

The making and playing of the sekere is an energizing experience for me that establishes a spiritual connection to my ancestors’ strength and genius. That connection is important to me because it guides me toward a better understanding of my inherent potential.  It keeps me aware of the rich cultural responsibilities passed on to me and the abundant cultural possibilities I leave to those who follow me.

My involvement with the sekere also connects me to a worldwide community of musicians and crafters, further enriching my creative spirit. Sharing techniques, supporting each other, developing musical and creative bonds, brings us closer together, strengthening the fabric of the culture for future generations. I am very proud to have the ability to take part in the preservation and promotion of the traditions of African music and crafts.

Join us at SEKERE.COM to share information, to learn more about sekere or to ask questions.

SEKERE.COM – A Beautiful African Heritage http://www.sekere.com

Some Beautiful Samples of Sara's Work

LINKS:
Sara’s wonderful and informative site: http://www.sekere.com
Color a sekere/shekere: http://www.dariamusic.com/color_Shekere.php
Hear a sekere/shekere: http://www.dariamusic.com/shekere.php
Make a real sekere – instructions from Sara Fabunmi: http://www.sekere.com/SEKERE%20TIPS.htm
Kids Project – Make a recycled sekere/shekere pdf: http://www.dariamusic.com/make_Shekere.php
Make a Sticker Sekere – a great activity for young children: https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2011/07/30/make-a-sticker-shekere/
Daria’s version of the South African Song:  Here Come Our Mothers – with shekere: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMnd7kCSRmI