Image of Shakerai
Click for a larger image

Although Africans who were forcibly moved to the English colonies could not bring many, if any, possessions, they did bring the skills necessary to make new things. Gourds, which are easily grown in warm climates, have been used by Africans throughout history. The Shakerai and other objects made from gourds show how African skills and cultural traditions continued in America. These, along with other African skills, traditions, and customs, could not be taken away from them.

The shakerai, a percussion instrument, is made by surrounding a hollow gourd with beads woven onto a net. The beads make a sound when the gourd is shaken or "clapped." Percussive rhythms are a basic element of African music.

The African practice of shaping gourds for specific uses as they were growing has led some historians to call gourds "the plastic of the pre-modern world."

Click for Movie
qt logo QuickTime Movie (306K)

audio iconHear the Sound

Other gourds
Click for a larger image

* Think about it

List possible uses for the gourd around the house or at work.

What materials do we use to make these kinds of objects today?

What other materials--natural and manmade--have been used in homemade musical instruments?  Why do you think these homemade instruments were made?


The Henry Ford ~