Thursday, June 13, 2013

How to Make a Shekere (African Gourd or Bottle Shaker)

I've made a few shekeres (shay'-kuh-rays) that sound and look great (IMHO). Although I love saving money and creating something unique, my main goal when creating a home-made instrument is always to create something musical and useful.
Both of the examples I'm posting here rival the sound of any purchased/imported instrument. Example #1 below is made from a plastic vinegar bottle and pony beads at a cost of about $2 versus $20-25 if purchasedExample #2, a more authentic-looking instrument is made from a gourd and wooden beads at a cost of about $18 versus $50-70 if purchased. (This one cost more because I purchased the gourd, dried and cleaned.)

#1 - Plastic Bottle Shekere by Jeri Crosby

#2 - Calabash Gourd Shekere with Wood-burned Designs by Jeri Crosby
 Materials List
Body: (1) sturdy plastic bottle with a narrow neck or (2) a clean, dry calabash, bottle-neck or pear-shaped gourd (available locally perhaps, or online)
Ring: (1) Plastic or metal ring that fits over the neck but not the shoulder of the bottle. The ring is optional but makes the project easier, and I recommended it if you make these with children. (2) You can simply create a base ring with several thicknesses of your string (as I did for the gourd shekere).
String: Strong string, thick crochet thread, upholstery thread, soft fishing line, etc.
Beads: Plastic pony beads or wooden beads (available at craft and variety stores)
Tools to decorate: (1) Permanent markers (optional) for the bottle or (2) a pencil and wood-burning tool for the gourd

First, decorate the body with markers or wood-burned designs as desired.

Second, check the fit of your ring or create a ring out of string, ensuring it rests on the 'shoulder' of the body. 

Third, cut strings four times the length of your bottle. Cut enough strings to fit evenly spaced around your ring about 1/2" apart.

Fourth, fold each string in half and 'hitch' strings around the ring. (Hitch: fold string in half, place middle/folded end of string beneath the ring. Lift the 'loop' created by the fold, and keeping the open ends of the string together, stick them through the loop and pull to tighten.)

Fifth, macramé (weave with knots), square-knotting each string with a neighboring string to the left. Insert beads on every other string, and then knot the each string with its neighbor on the right. 

Continue inserting beads and knotting strings (left, then right) with neighboring strands until you've created desired length of the bead-mesh. Important note: Be sure to leave enough loose string between knots/beads so the bead apparatus will move freely against the body. 

Finish by knotting/weaving a couple of rows and tying strings together as in this picture, or create an end ring with your string and tie each string onto the ring as in the gourd example below. Note: an open end allows the player to tap/drum the gourd (but it is a more complicated finish).

Here are a couple of pics of the gourd shekere under construction:

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post. Keep it up. Hope to read more post from you guys.