What is a Shekere?
Although rattles are found all around the world, the shakere (shay – kur – ay) is a special type of rattle made from a dried gourd covered with netting. Attached to the netting are noise-makers such as beads, seeds, or shells. Most historians think that the shekere was invented in West Africa but was so well loved that different versions appeared across the continent with variations in sizes, shapes and playing styles. Check out the sizes and different bead work on the shekeres pictured above!
How do you play a shekere? It can be held and rattled, shimmied, shaken or tossed gently from hand-to-hand or from one person to another. It’s a truly versatile instrument!
Make Your Own Shekere
If you would like to purchase a real Shekere Kit you can visit my music store here.
Since making an authentic shekere involves drying a gourd – a process that can take several months to a year, we wanted to share a simpler, recycled version of this craft. Start with a plastic jug from the recycling bin and instead of netting and noise-makers, “bead” by applying stickers, creating any type of pattern that you want. Using round stickers or different colored reinforcements creates the look of actual beads. For the letter games, write letters from A to Z in different stickers around the jug. After completing your design, you may wish to cover the surface of your plastic jug with clear packing tape so the stickers don’t rub off.
To make your shekere sound like a rattle, add a small amount of any simple filler such as birdseed, pasta, dried lentils, pebbles or beads. Seal up the top with a sturdy tape and your percussion instrument will sound great when played in your hands or tossed as part of a game.
Toss the shekere around while music is being played. Stop it (like in musical chairs), and call out a letter to find as fast as possible or sing a simple rhyme such as:
Round and round and round it goes
Where it stops nobody knows
Find the letter ___!
Shake and shake the shekere
Here is what I have to say
Find the Letter ___!
Some easy variations:
What other ways can you explore your new instrument? Can you come up with your own games or even write a new song to sing and play along with? When it comes to music, the possibilities for both fun and learning are endless!
Hear a shekere sample or shekere song here:
Check out 8 simple world music instruments – sounds, songs and coloring activities:
20 Different easy world music crafts for kids: