The shekere is an instrument from West Africa consisting of a dried gourd with beads woven into a net covering the gourd. Throughout the continent there are similar gourd/bead or gourd/seed percussion instruments. Some are the lilolo, axatse (Ghana), djabara (Guinea), ushàkà, and chequere. It is predominantly called shekere in Nigeria. The Agbe is a gourd drum with cowrie shells and is usually strung with white cotton thread. The Axatse is a small gourd, held by the neck and percussed between hand and leg. In Liberia, the net has a long “tail” through which the beads are manipulated.
The shekere is made from vine gourds that grow on the ground. The shape of the gourd determines the sound of the instrument. A shekere is made by drying the gourd for several months then removing the pulp and seeds. After it is scrubbed, skillful bead work is added as well as colour. The instrument is used for folkloric traditions as well as some of the popular music styles. In performance it is shaken and/or hit against the hands.
In Cuba the chekeré (always spelt thus) is also known as aggué (abwe) or simply guiro (a word that means ‘gourd’, though not to be confused with a different percussive instrument, more specifically know as a guiro worldwide, the latter being “raked” with a stick, and common, for instance in Salsa and Cumbia). The chekeré is a large, hollow gourd (~50 cm long, approx. 19 1⁄2 in) almost entirely surrounded by a network of cords, to which many coloured beads are attached. Widely used in Afro-Cuban sacred and popular music, it may be twisted, shaken or slapped producing a subtle variety of effects; musically, it is more flexible than maracas. In Brazil, this African gourd rattle is called a xequerê. It consists of the gourd (cabaça) cut in the middle and then wrapped in a net in which beads or small plastic balls are threaded. The afoxé is a similar, smaller instrument.
Ogun for Shekere introduces a total of seven new rhythmic patterns for high, medium, and low-pitched shekeres. Normally played on bata drums, the rhythms are associated with the Yoruba Orisha, Ogun, and have been adapted for use with the shekere. They include a foundation rhythm called the basic ride, and more complex conversations that represent call-and-response sections between the instruments.
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