The Quijada – A Latin American Instrument Made From a Donkey’s Jawbone

Musical instruments can be as diverse as the many peoples and cultures on the planet.  One of my favorite unique instruments is a traditional rattle from comes from Afro Peruvian culture called the quijada.  Made from the jawbone of a donkey (the word quijada means jawbone in Spanish), the instrument looks more like an artifact from a museum than an instrument used in a musical band!  And, it’s loud. The jawbone is held in one hand and punched firmly with the other fist.  When the long teeth shake back and forth in the sockets, a loud, rattling or buzzing sound is created.  Since the teeth are slightly uneven, some percussionists also play this jawbone by dragging a stick or rasp over it like a guiro.

Believe it or not, the lower jawbone of a donkey, horse or zebra is also used in several other cultures, with different names and slightly different methods of playing, of course.  According to music historians, you can find similar jawbone instruments in Argentina, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and in some types of Mexican folk traditions such as “Costa Chica” music.

Can you make your own version of a quijada at home?  Since jawbones aren’t handy around most homes, creating an authentic one might be difficult.   However, you can create the type of rattling percussion made by this instrument by using egg cartons, tape and some form of mock teeth that can rattle in your container.  The result can be a great-sounding “monster” rattle!

Get Your Supplies

Aside from materials you might use for decoration, all you need is an extra egg carton, packing tape and objects that can fit in the 12 spaces of the container.   What can you use?  Practically anything.  Look around for items like large pebbles, dried pasta, buttons, coins, large beads, seashells, or even small pine cones.  Each will make a slightly different sound when the carton is closed and you rap on the side.

Play With The Sound

Experiment with the sounds created when you place different objects in your rattle.  Once you’ve found the combination you like, move on to decorating the outside.

A Monster Rattle

Would you like to give your rattle a face?  We’ve created eight different creatures you can color and add to the top of your egg carton.  You can find them at the craft url below.  Or create your own look or design.  Use paint, glitter, glue and create something truly unique.

Tape It Up!

The last step is to seal up your rattle.  Since many egg cartons have open spaces in them, make sure to tape them closed.  Clear packing tape works well here.  This keeps the contents inside and makes it a more sturdy, child-proof instrument to play with.

Time To Play!

If you want to play your monster rattle like a quijada, hold it in one hand and rap it with the side of fist of your other hand.  However, since this is a rattle, you can play with it in any number of other ways.  Shake it back and forth, up and down, start slow and go faster.  Play along with your favorite songs and see if you can match the beats.  Or sing a favorite song and let your rattle keep the time.

Experiment and have fun!


Step-By-Step Instructions/Coloring Pages for this craft from TeachersPayTeachers

World music crafts and coloring pages for kids from DARIA MUSIC

Quijada Videos
A young woman creating traditional rhythms with the quijada