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  These simple rattles have a flat piece on the bottom originally made from a dried gourd.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

Advertisements

Make Your Own Tingsha Handbells

Most historians believe that about 4,000 years ago, craftspeople in the region around China began experimenting with metal and bronze. Although the region around China, Tibet, Nepal and Southern Asia is quite diverse, these countries share a common history of discovering and creating unique musical instruments made from metal such as gongs, bells, singing bowls and handbells known as tinghsa. Tingsha (also, ting-sha) are two small, rather heavy cymbals that are attached to a rope or piece of rawhide. They are usually about 2.5 to 4 inches in diameter and can be plain or have decorative images on them. Some have symbols such as dragons that are considered lucky or they may have mantras or other words or phrases that are a part of prayer or devotional practices.

Tingsha can be played in two different ways. Either the string is held and the two bells are allowed to strike each other or both cymbals are held and tapped together to make them ring out. Because the sound of tingsha bells is so beautiful and relaxing, they are often heard in the United States as part of

yoga or meditation practices.

MAKE YOUR OWN TINGSHA BELLS

Want to make your own version? Here is an easy project to create your own tingsha bells out of recycled materials.

SUPPLIES

Two matching bottle caps – “Snapple” caps work perfectly

String or yarn

Paint, textured paint or glitter and glue for decorating the handbells.

To make the hole in the bottlecaps:

A piece of wood (as a work area)

Hammer and nail or hammer and awl

Start by creating a hole in the center of each of the bottlecaps. You can do this by putting the bottlecap; outer side up, on a work surface (such as a spare piece of wood) and tapping it gently with a hammer and nail or use a hammer and awl.

Once you’ve created the hole, it’s a good idea to turn the cap over and tap it with a hammer to flatten the sharp edges around the hole. This makes it safer to handle when adding the string.

To decorate your two “cymbals”, you can paint or add textured fabric paint. You can also apply glue and glitter. When you’re done and they are dry, you are ready to string them together.

Thread the strong or yarn through each side and make a knot to hold it into place. Check that you like the length of your tinghsa and adjust the knots accordingly.

Play and have fun!

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

What Are Castanets or Castañuelas?

Do you like to explore different kinds of percussion instruments as well as world cultures?

The castanets are a wonderfully unique instrument.  Although they are most often associated with Spanish music, no one knows for certain where they originated.  There are historical accounts of castanets in countries such as Spain, Portugal and Italy and in cultures and empires that flourished in the region such as the ancient Romans, Ottomans and Sephartic people.

What Do Castanets Look Like?

Many people think that castanets are shaped liked a shell and the two sides are joined together by a piece of string or decorative ribbon.  Originally they were made of hard wood which created a beautiful, loud sound when “clacked” together.  Modern versions of castanets can be made from plastic and fiberglass as well.  In fact, the Spanish name for castanets is castañuelas – which means “little chestnuts”.   It makes you wonder if the first castanets were two chestnuts halves clicked together or if the shape of a dried chestnut inspired the design.

How Do You Play The Castanets?

If you slip the string from a castanet onto your thumb or your middle finger, you’ll find that you can open and close the fingers of that hand and get the instrument to click.  You can do that slowly or quickly.  Then do the same with the other hand and you have two instruments that click together or back and forth, like they are talking to each other.  In castanets crafted for the serious dancer or player, one pair will sound slightly different then the other.  One is called the “male” (macho) and the other “female” (hembra), meaning that they have a slightly different pitch.   Just like maracas, each one has a different tone so the rhythms can be more complex as the two sounds are blended.

Check out this video demonstration of some of the amazing sounds that advanced played can get from castanets:

Castanets in Spanish Folklore

Although most people associate castanets with the flamenco dance style of Spain, castanets are only used in two different types of flamenco dancing – styles called “zambra” and “siguiriyas”.  Castanets are also featured in a type of Spanish balletic dance called “escuela bolera”.  In the Andalusia region of Spain, castanets are also called palillos meaning “little sticks”.  In some orchestral settings, castanets are mounted on a stick or have an attached handle and not played inside the hands, but “clacked” back and forth.

Playing With Castanets

Although castanets are two wooden or plastic items striking each other, their size and shape allows kids (or grown-ups) to experiment with how they can be played. Try placing the string over your thumb or middle finger and getting them to click.   Adjust the string or ribbon, if necessary.  Put a pair on each hand and see what rhythms can be made by playing them back and forth or at the same time.  Try creating rhythms while dancing and keeping in time with the music.  If the hand movement seems too complicated, consider using a pair of mounted castanets in place of the smaller “inside-the-hand” ones.

Want to explore more unique world music instruments?

Hear 8 Different World Music Instruments and Color Online Activities:
http://www.dariamusic.com/cajon.php

15 Different World Music Instruments and Lots of Coloring Pages, too:
http://www.dariamusic.com/crafts.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)

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

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.

——————-

Make A Sticker Shekere

Have you ever seen a shekere from Africa? It is a beautiful musical instrument made from a dried gourd that is shaken, tossed or moved from hand to hand creating wonderful rhythms and songs.

Here’s a picture of several traditional shekeres from a variety of countries:

Traditional shekeres (or sekeres) are most often made from a type of squash called a birdhouse gourd that grows in many locations around the world.  It is grown, dried and about a year later, ready to be turned into an instrument. When the outside of the gourd hardens into a thick shell,  it is strung with a netting that fits loosely around the rounded part of the gourd.  Beads, seeds, shells or other rattling objects are attached to the netting to create the percussive sound of the shekere.

Since gourds may be hard to find and take some time to dry, here is a simplified version of this musical craft that uses stickers and recycled milk jugs.  Also, working with netting and beads can be difficult for tiny hands, so this craft allows young children to create beautiful patterns that are unique and still have an instrument that is fun to play along with African songs or any uptempo music.  A complete supply list for this project is below.

MAKE YOUR OWN SHEKERE
First, wash and clean your milk jug and keep the lid or cap. If you are working with many children, you may wish to put each child’s name on their milk jug for identification, should some of the shekeres look similar. Next, allow your students to do their beading, either free form by applying stickers anywhere on the milk jug or you can draw string patterns for them to show where a bead or sticker would go.  If you like, you can talk about patterns of colors and different ways that patterns can be created.

Once your shekere is “beaded”, then add the filling. Fillings that create quieter shekeres are sand, salt, sugar, Q-tips, seed beads or tiny pasta such as pastina. Slightly louder shekeres can be made with fillings like paper clips, bird seed, rice, pony beads, or smaller beans such as lentils. Louder shekeres can be created by adding large dried macaroni, or beans, pebbles, larger beads or even jingle bells.

After filling your shekeres, seal the instrument with sturdy electrical tape by wrapping it around the lid and the top section of the plastic jug. This way the contents are secure inside, especially if working with younger children. If you can find colorful electrical tape, it adds a nice design element.

A HANDLE FOR YOUR SHEKERE
If you like, add colorful yarn or pipecleaners to create a handle for your milk jug shekere.

PLAYING TIPS
The shekere can be played like a rattle, simply shaking it around. It can also be held in one hand and then tapped on the other hand, like you might play a tambourine.

It can be tossed gently from one hand to the other. It can be played by tossing gently from one person to another and works well in a circle.

Some players “burp” their shekere.  They hold it in one hand and tap the bottom with the other hand.  On gourds, this creates not only a rattling but an “ah” sound. If you try this with your milk jug shekere, you’ll get a rattle and a tap, a nice percussive effect.

What other sounds can your sticker shekere make?  Explore it and find out.

Hear a shekere here:
http://www.dariamusic.com/shekere.php

Color a shekere online here:
http://www.dariamusic.com/color_Shekere.php

Check out this great traditional song from South Africa:
www.vimeo.com/dariamusic/here-come-our-mothers

SUPPLIES FOR THIS PROJECT
Plastic milk jug, (rinsed out, with lid)
Stickers (such as paper reinforcements or the little round stickers used to price items at garage sales).
Permanent Marker, if you wish to draw string patterns on the plastic jugs
Colorful yarn or string for handle
Filling for the shekere – such as bird seed, dried macaroni, beans, beads, rice, sugar, salt, paper clips or small pebbles.
Electrical tape – for sealing the instrument and keeping the content inside