In Africa, one of the most popular instruments is the shekere. Throughout the continent it is called different things, such as the lilolo, axatse (Ghana), and chequere. It is predominantly called shekere in Nigeria. Musicians dance and sing while they shake a shekere or bang it on their knees.
The shekere is a percussion instrument made from a gourd with a beaded skirt. The instrument was originally from Africa but is now used in Afro-Caribbean, Jazz, Salsa, and other popular music.
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 folklore as well as some of the popular music. Considered highly personal, it is never loaned or shared, even with family members. However, a son who is a professional musician may inherit his father’s shekere. Shekeres among the Yoruba of Nigeria are often connected with religion, given great respect, and play a very important role in traditional music.
When African slaves were taken to the “New World,” they carried with them many of these rich musical traditions, which took root in varying degrees in different parts of the Americas and the Caribbean. In Cuba, Yoruba religious traditions using drums and shekeres are found almost completely intact – with similar rhythmic patterns, names of instruments and accompanying chants.
Brazilians sometimes use a beaded coconut called “afuxe” similar in name and style to the Ghanian shekere. In the United States the shekere and other African related instruments continue to grow in popularity and are quickly becoming part of our contemporary musical expression.
Want to find a variety of African musical instruments to own for yourself? Just check out the links below!