by Roger Squitero
The shekere (or chequere) originates from the Yoruba culture in West Africa and is considered by many percussionists to be a very versatile instrument. It begins with a calabash, which is a type of gourd related to the squash. Once it has been dried and hollowed, its inner chamber resonates when struck. A player usually uses the stronger hand's heel for this.
The outside of the calabash is woven with a sort of macrame net of beads that slides when this gourd is shaken or tipped as if pouring liquid from the top. This creates a soft, scratching sound. The netting isoften extended beyond the bottom of the gourd 6" to 10". By holding the dangling strings of this web in one hand and the neck in the other, the beads can be manipulated up and down or back and forth along the gourd's surface. A percussionist needs to coordinate both arms and hands to produce a smooth, flowing rhythm. With some practice, the player can help the gourd truly speak. And every moment of work is well worth the rewards of getting into a groove on a shekere.
The shekere also offers a unique asthetic aspect in the beautiful patterns that can be woven with the beads (plastic, wood or ceramic beads, with each producing their own distinct sounds against the calabash). Additionally, shekeres are sometimes decorated with feathers and strips of colored material - truly works of visual, as well as musical, genius.
However, this ancient technique did not make for the strongest of instruments to play, as the gourd bodies would often crack or break. LP has used modern engineering to correct the problem of fragility while keeping the authentic sounds pure. Synthetic material are used to mold the body, which is sometimes shaped into a cylinder instead of the natural bell shape of a gourd. Thie unique design of LP Pro Shekere provides the traditional sounds of a gourd shekere while also making the instrument durable enough to withstand any percussive onslaught.
An instrument used in the religious music of West Africa and the Caribbean that now holds its own in contemporary music as well, the shekere has a song of its own. It stands apart as a complex percussion instrument of beauty and distinction.