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  These simple rattles have a flat piece on the bottom originally made from a dried gourd.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/

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Make Your Own Jingle Bells For The Holidays

Throughout time people have loved the sound of bells that jingle. You can hear them on the wrists and ankles of dancers from India. You can see them placed around the collars of reindeer up near the Arctic circle or on horses as they pull a “one horse open sleigh”.  They are worn around the wrist, ankle or waist by some Native American tribes and can be found attached to a jingle stick as a percussion instrument in bands or to play along with music at home.

Here are some ideas for making your own jingle bells.

WRISTS, ANKLES AND WAIST BELLS

Jingle bells of various sizes are available at practically any craft or sewing store. To make them into anklets or bracelets is simple. For the easiest project, begin with pipecleaners in your favorite colors and wrap or twist the pipecleaners stopping at regular intervals to string on a jingle bell. Stop when you’ve created the right length to fit your wrist or ankle.  For a waist belt of jingles, keep twisting in more pipecleaners and adding bells until you’ve reached the desired size.

If you braid or finger-weave (a finger and thumb type of weaving that is a bit like crochet), begin with yarn and string on the bells as you see fit. The result will look and sound great!

The nice thing about bracelets or anklets of bells is that it calls attention to movement. As a child moves his arms or legs or as a toddler dances, they can hear the sound and use their own body or arms or legs as an extension of the musical instrument.  It’s a great way to feel the beat!

JINGLE STICK

Start with a pencil and place one jingle bell in the middle of a pipecleaner at the top of your pencil. Fold the two ends of the pipecleaner down the sides of the pencils and begin to wrap with another pipecleaner. Every so often, string a bell onto the sides of the pipecleaner that are hanging down and then continue to wrap the pencil.

And then … play along with Jingle Bells or any of your favorite holiday music.

Have fun as you … JINGLE ALL THE WAY!

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Holiday Songs from Give-Aways  on DARIA’s monthly Song Page: http://www.dariamusic.com/monthly_song.php

Jingle Bells mp3:
– on Amazon
– on iTunes

Jingle Bells lyrics:
http://www.dariamusic.com/jinglebells.php

Jingle Bells – printable lyrics
http://www.dariamusic.com/docs/songs/jinglebells.pdf

Daria’s Holiday release with Christmas and Hanukkah songs in English,
Spanish, Ladino and German: http://www.dariamusic.com/cd_holiday.php

Make Your Own Bilma – Australian Clapsticks!

Clapsticks – two sticks that are tapped together – can be found in different countries all over the world. Although they all consist of two small lengths of wood tapped together, they are amazing different in how they look, sound and how they are played as part of the music from their culture of origin. In Australian Aboriginal culture, there are special clapsticks called bilma that are often used to accompany the didgeridoo when it’s played.

What Are Bilma?
Sometimes when a didg is playing, you can hear these small but loud clapsticks keeping a beat for the music. Most traditional bilma are made from the hard wood of a eucalyptus tree, native to Australia. They are often used as part of the Aboriginal corroboree ceremony where dancers become of sacred “Dreamtime” through dance, music and special clothing or costumes.

What Do Bilma Look Like?
One movie about the history of the Aboriginal people in Australia; “Rabbit Proof Fence”, shows a woman playing bilma that are simply two sticks found on the ground.  Other bilma used in ceremony are carved out of hard wood and look more like they are the work of an expert craftsperson. More modern bilma can also have the distinctive dot pattern found in Australian Aboriginal art and can be quite beautiful and creative.  If you make your own, you can be inspired by Australian culture and designs or you can use art that reflects your favorite colors or patterns or images that you find inspirational.

What Supplies Do You Need?
Supplies for this project are simple. For the sticks, you can use two sticks (about 6-8”) found in the woods or a length of wooden dowel found at a hardware store. You can also use an old broomstick or recycle the handle of a broken shovel or garden tool.  If so, cut two pieces that are about the same size that will fit easily into your hand. You’ll also need some of the following for the design: craft paints, Q-tips, fabric paint and possibly a few permanent markers.

Prepare Your Clapsticks
First, start with your sticks. They might need a bit of sanding to smooth out rough edges.  You might want to leave them natural or paint them an overall color as the basis of your design. Once they are prepped and/or painted, then you’re ready for creating your own design.  Here are two options you might like to try.

A Simple Dot Bilma
If you look at most Australian Aboriginal art, it’s formed by a series of dots that create a picture. You can make these dots by dipping a Q-tip in craft paint and them touching it to the surface of your stick. Since making patterns with dots can be a bit unusual, it’s a good idea to play with the Q-tips and dot patterns on a piece of paper first, before you move onto decorating your stick. One creative way of practicing painting with dots is to put your child’s name on a paper and allow them to fill up their name with dots as well as create designs around it. Once you feel you’ve gotten the hang of it, move on to decorating your sticks.

A Crafty Textured Dot Design Bilma
For a more elaborate bilma, you can work with the type of textured fabric paint that is found at any craft store.  Although this type of paint is often used on fabrics, it also works perfectly on wood. Since the level of paint that comes out of the nozzle is a bit tricky, it’s a good idea to practice on a piece of paper first to see how the fabric paint will flow for you. Once you like how it works, start creating the design on your sticks. There’s one warning here, though.  Fabric paint takes a bit of time to harden, so make sure you’ve set your bilma on something to dry – such as an empty, open egg carton or toilet paper holders. That way your dots can dry perfectly and not smudge as you complete your project.

Once you’re happy with what you’ve created, you can seal the project with a coat of clear lacquer, if desired.

Playing The Bilma
Traditional bilma are played by holding one stick in place in one hand and tapping on top of it with the other clapstick. If you make a didgeridoo, you can have one person play the didg and another can keep the beat with the bilma. You can play like this or you can experiment with tapping the sticks together in any number of other ways.

Sing a favorite song and tap to the beat or put on a cd you enjoy and see it you can play in time with the rhythms you hear. Try it with slow or fast music – it’s a great way to learn to listen for the beat of a song.  And take a moment to appreciate what you’ve done.  Making music is a great way of expressing yourself and learning about world cultures at the same time.  Enjoy!

Supplies
2 wooden pieces about 6 – 8” in length
Sandpaper
Craft paint
Q-tips (for the dot design pattern)
Textured fabric paint (for more intricate patterns)
Clear lacquer (if desired, to seal the project when it’s completed).

Related Links:
Make Your Own Didgeridoo – http://www.dariamusic.com/make_Didg.php

Hear, color or create other instruments from around the world: http://www.dariamusic.com/cajon.php

The Sistrum – An Instrument That Dates Back To Ancient Egypt

Illustration by Madcow Designs (www.madcow-designs.com)

Almost every culture in the world has created some form of instrument that will either shake, rattle or roll.  Ancient Egypt is no exception.

If you could travel back in time to the days of the pyramids and pharaohs you might see a special kind of hand-held rattle called a sistrum.  Played mainly by women, it was moved from side to side and the bangles would rock back and forth creating a unique sound and a distinctive rhythm.

What exactly did a sistrum look like?  We’ve created a coloring page based on many of the hieroglyphics and historical data that we’ve found. We’ve also come up with some fun ways that you can make your own sistrum at home.  You can either start with a wire coat hanger or you can take a nature walk and look for a branch shaped like the letter “Y”.  And your bangles?  They can be jingle bells, pop-top tabs, metal washers or even buttons beads or seeds.  Whatever you use, you’re sure to create an amazing sounding instrument that’s both old and new at the same time!

Download – A Sistrum Coloring Page

Download Instructions – How To Make a Recycled Sistrum (With a Clothes Hanger)

Download Instructions – How To Make a Natural Sistrum (With a Tree Branch)

Make Some Marvelous Maracas!

Although Cinco De Mayo is celebrated in May and Hispanic heritage is highlighted in the USA from September 15 – October 15th, any time of year is great for making and exploring Latin American culture with this simple musical craft.

Maracas are one of the simplest instruments to play for young children or the beginning musician. They are essentially rattles with handles. They come in pairs. You put one in each hand and you shake, rattle and roll! Of course, if you’ve seen experienced percussionists play maracas, you would be amazed at what they can make them do. So, a pair of maracas are versatile little instruments for “just jamming with the kids” or for exploring rhythms, beats and tempos as a fun way to learn more about music.

Most folks consider maracas to be native to Latin America, however, similar instruments (pairs of rattles) can be found in cultures around the world. Most often associated with the music of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Venezuela, Jamaica and Brazil, maracas have been played for centuries. One set of maracas made of clay were found in ruins in present day Columbia. They were used by the indigenous people of that area and dated back to almost 1,500 years ago.

Maracas come in all sorts of sizes, shapes and designs!

What are maracas made of? Most traditional maracas are made from natural materials such as gourds, clay, wood or coconut shells. More modern ones can be made of plastic, leather or other synthetic materials. They are filled with small objects such as seeds, pebbles or dried beans. To create “recycled rattles” you can start with smaller water bottles from the recycling bin and be even more clever with fillings – finding things you can easily use from around the house, garage or in your junk drawer.

Get Out Your Materials !
Although you can use any type of small plastic bottles, the 8 oz (236 mL) size water bottles are just perfect for this project in size and shape. If you’ve sworn off plastic, then ask around. A neighbor, classmate or local store may offer you what they might have sent out as recycling.

You’ll also need two toilet paper rolls and some sturdy tape. Electrical tape works best and colorful electrical tape adds a nice decorative touch to what you are creating.

Then you’ll need some fillings. Remember each filling produces a different sound, so that may also be part of your plan for creating your set of maracas. For instance, sand or salt maracas will be very quiet. Dried beans, macaroni or large bead maracas will be nice and loud. Here are some suggestions that you can find around most every household:

Sand, salt, pebbles, birdseed, rice, beans, small beads, large beads, dried pasta, rice, dried peas or beans, small washers, paper clips, small erasers.

A complete supply list is provided below as well as some suggestions for great sounding maraca combinations.

Make Your Maracas
First take your clean and dried 8 oz water bottle and fill with your chosen contents. Close it up with the cap and then listen to the sound. Once it sounds good to your ears, then you can move to the next step. But first, check out how many professional maracas are made – they are created to be slightly different in sound.

Many sets of maracas are “pitched” differently. In other words, shaking the right hand one will sound different from shaking the left hand one, so you can create some great patterns by playing with the sounds. For instance, if you make my version of rice and beans maracas (described below), the rice will be sound a bit softer and higher in pitch, the beans a bit louder and lower in pitch, so you can build rhythms on those sounds. You can also describe the rhythms in a fun way, such as rice, rice, beans, rice, rice beans or rice, beans, rice, rice beans. Almost anyone can learn new rhythms and even complicated rhythm patterns with this creative approach.

So, now you’ve decided how you want your pair of maracas to sound and you’ve tightened the cap on your two water bottles. The next step is to create the handle. Take your two toilet paper rolls and make a straight cut from one end to the other. Tighten the roll in on itself to about the size of a ¾ inch dowel and then apply your electrical tape. Start wrapping the tape around the bottom part of the rattle on the bottle and move down onto the new handle. Wrap slowly, covering all the cardboard of the toilet paper roll and you will have created a rather sturdy handle for your new instrument.

Now you are ready to play.

Time To Jam
Do you want to just jam? Then simply pick up your instrument and shake, shake, shake. Or dance around, move and groove, and shake things up to your heart’s content. If you want to get into more of the maraca’s musical possibilities, then take some time to check out what they can do.

Aside from shaking them back and forth where the sound comes from the contents striking the sides, you can swoosh them around. By moving your hand in a circular motion, the contents of your maracas won’t hit side to side, but will whoosh a bit around in the bottle, creating a different sound. You can also “crescendo” your maracas. You start by shaking them quietly and slightly and then build little by little to get the loudest sound. It’s a fun way to begin or end a song.

You can also make several pairs and mix and match. What sound patterns can you create? Which maracas sound best to you or sound best as pairs? Does a certain pattern sound like a song you know? Or does a song you know inspire a new pattern? Despite the fact that these are really simple little instruments, they can truly inspire hours of musical fun.

SUPPLIES (for one pair of maracas)
2 eight oz (236 mL) water bottles
2 toilet paper rolls
Electrical tape (colorful, if possible)

Filling for your maracas – any of the following:
Sand, salt, pebbles, birdseed, rice, beans, small beads, large beads, dried pasta, rice, dried peas or beans, small washers, paper clips, small erasers.

GREAT-SOUNDING COMBINATIONS FOR MARACAS
Rice and Beans Maracas
Rice in one maraca, beans in the other. The color and the sound are different, making it really easy to create patterns.

“Back To School” Maracas
Colorful paper clips in one, small extra erasers in the other. A nice difference in the sound between the right and left hand.

Sand and Little Pasta Maracas
These are really quiet and subtle. The sand or salt maraca is softer then the tiny pasta (choose acini de pepe, pastina or orzo pasta) making this a great choice for kids that want to learn to listen, kids with noise sensitivity or for learning some of the aspects of playing a percussion instrument quietly but effectively.

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