Kutiro-Balafon-Sabar = Drums Ensemble…

****Music of the Mande – Gambian Tantango = Kutiro Drumming

Drum troupes play for recreational dances and various festivities. The Mandinka, descendants of the Mande peoples of western Africa, now reside primarily in Senegal, Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau. Among the Mande people in general, rhythm expressed as drumming is linked with all forms of movement, be it dancing, wrestling, procession, or agricultural labor. 

There is a defined hierarchy within the ensemble where the Sabaro takes the fore, both musically, and socially. A Drummer will begin a long apprenticeship, usually starting in youth, gradually working from Kutiros to Sabaro as his skill increases. The Tantango ensemble is employed in many life-cycle rituals circumcisions, fertility, agricultural and recreational, wrestling events.  The most prominent such event is recreational dance Bantaba and singing held in a wide-open space in the center of a village or at a crossroads in town. Participants amass in circles which can vary in size: sometimes with barely enough room for dancers, at other times as large as city blocks with rented folding chairs placed along the sides of the street for guests. The Bantaba events begin with a signature recreational dance – Lenjengo, danced primarily by women and girls, and which typically includes a collection of rhythms, songs, and dances leading up to the “Lenjengo” a fully engaged dance-music gathering that could go on indefinitely. The term Tantango is often used to refer to any of these Drums, and sometimes the ensemble is called a Seruba ensemble after the name of an important dance event in which they are played. The ensemble is used throughout the Gambia and Cassamance as far east as Tambacounda.

Evidence from neighboring Drumming traditions suggests that the Mandinka may have fashioned their Drums after models used in their new Senegambian homeland or even acquired them there. Both the name and the shape of the Mandinka Sabaro and Wolof Sabar Drums are very similar, and the method of attaching the head to the body is the same for these two as well as for the other Mandinka and Wolof Drums. But in contrast to the Mandinka ensemble, fixed at three Drums and rarely augmented, Wolof Sabar-based ensembles consist of more Drums and can accommodate large numbers of players. In the case of celebrations with many participants, the Mandinka ensemble is still not augmented; rather, many ensembles play for smaller groups within the larger crowd. In addition to Wolof influence, there is also an exchange of rhythms between Jola and Mandinka, even though the Jola play the very different Bugarabu, a group of three of four large Drums played by a single person with bare hands. The practice of wearing iron jingles (Jawungo) around the wrist is widespread among Mandinka and Jola Drummers as well as Bala.

Each Drum is played with one hand and a short stick approximately of nine inches long; the two Kutiro Drums are sometimes played with both bare hands. The minimal vocabulary necessary to play the Drums consists of two different hand strokes and two different stick strokes. The hand strokes are an open bounce (kun) where a clear tone is produced, and closed damped stroke (Ba) where the fingers press on the head and remain there. The stick strokes are a bounce (Din) and a press (Da). With two hand sounds and two stick sounds on each Drum, a strikingly full orchestral sound can be created by just the two Kutiro Drums.

As a village rather than urban event, Lenjengo can be contrasted in organization with analogous urban Jembe Drumming (Dununba)events in Mali and Guinea. In Lenjengo a long-term compositional process is at work with a specific sequence of pieces. While the Sabaro Drummer  plays the phrases linked with the entrances, exits, and other movements of the dancers, the two Kutiro Drummers play the identifying parts that are unique to each dance.

The stage presentation Mandinka Drumming and dancing has a history that is now over half a century old. New traditions have developed, moving Drumming in a variety of directions. Although some of these traditions flourished abroad, the general recognition of Africa as a wellspring of a deeply entrenched culture of drumming and dancing still operates. The number, diversity, depth, and uniqueness of Drumming traditions in Africa are astounding. So is the musical sophistication and power that can be routinely achieved by a small ensemble of instruments with a limited palette of sounds.

***Drum Call – The Drum call begins all ceremonies. The Drums speak the opening prayer and request blessings for the dance ceremony to begin. The purpose of the drum call is to contain the spirits that would normally be invoked through the dances. The drum call is also called “Baque.” Each ethnic group has its own “Baque,” and within each ethnic group every family has its own special rhythms that are passed down from generation to generation. 

The Mandinka Drum Ensemble consists of three Drums. The leader plays the long Sabaro, assisted by two Drummers playing the Kutiro – larger Kutiroba – small Kutirindingo.

“Sabaro = 6  – 7″ Diameter 25 – 27″ Long…(4 1/4″) Kutiroba = 9  – 10″  Diameter 15 – 17″ Long…(4 1/2″) Kutirindingo = 7 – 8″ Diameter 12 – 14″ Long…(4″)

Forango: Sitick 9″ long … Jawungo = Bell – Iron Rattles … Kusango – Peg …(5″Long Hole -5/8″)  Bora or Bisango – Beard or Skirt for Sabaro… Minango – Antelope Skin… Fasango – To Lace… Manduka – Mallet…

Griot, Jaly, or Ayan (keepers of African oral traditions) dies, they literally take libraries of African music and dance to the grave where it is entombed and lost to the world forever. Since the music and dance of Africa is largely an oral tradition that is verbally passed down from one generation to the next, sheet music is not available. Younger generations of Africans no longer practice or know the traditional music and dance of their Ancestors, therefore, African music and dance is an endangered species. All of the drums are played with a pencil-sized stick (in the strong hand) and a bare (weak) hand, which allows for a wide range of stroke qualities that can create the illusion of more than three drums playing. Some repertoire and styles use two bare hands for the Kutiroba part; special pitch bending effects are created by pressing the center of the drum skin with the elbow (weak hand) on the Kutirindingo and Kutiroba. The Sabaro drummer also commands a police whistle that may be played in a rhythmic fashion, delineating short motives and longer phrases, or simply blown in natural tandem with his breathing, adding an edgy, frenetic craziness to the mix.  A Kutiro event includes drumming, dancing and singing, which weaves a standard repertoire of short, strophic call-and-response songs with improvised social commentary based on melodic formulae.

                     ***The  African Balafon:  Listen – Feel & Move…

    An instrument known to have existed during the Mali Empire, the Balafon has been and still is popular in West Africa. Its name has a Manding origin but the name varies in some parts like Sierra Leone, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso. Balafon means the “act of playing the Bala,” with “Balan” corresponding to the instrument, while “fo” a verb meaning “to play” in the Malinke language. Guinea’s Susu and Malinke peoples, as well as the Manding people dwelling in Senegal, Mali, and Gambia are the popular users of the instrument. Balafon traditions were also recorded in Chad, Cameroon, and around the Congo BasinIn Ancient times, the Balafon is considered a sacred instrument that is exclusive to trained and skilled caste members. It was stored in a temple for safekeeping and can only be played at certain traditional and ritual occasions such as funerals, weddings, and festivals. Not to mention that the Balafon has to be purified first before being played.

According to one of the Mandingo myths, the first inhabitant of the Earth coming down from the sky was a blacksmith. It is certainly not by chance that the Balafon played an important part in the history of the accession of the kingdom of Mali. Castes formed, and among them the blacksmith was found at the center of all craft activities and became powerful. Without him there would be no weapons for hunting, nor farming implements, nor cooking utensils. He was master of fire and wood. Traditionally, it was he who sculpted the shell of the Djembe, or the slats of the Balafon.  The Bala-Fola’s gesture is the same as the blacksmith’s. Beating with the stick is the same movement as with the hammer and the slat replaces the anvil. Everything seems to indicate that the first Balafon players were smiths.

 Amongst thousands of percussion instruments, there is an important family, the mallet instruments. Xylophones, vibraphones, marimbas,  have a common Ancestor – the African Bala. The culture of Balafon music is highly developed in the countries south of the Sahara desert and the tropical rain forest.  With the ethnic groups like the Senoufos, Bobos, Miankans, Lobis,  Toussiens, Samogos, Gouins or Tourakans (Mali, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Ghana) a large Bala can have up to 21 slats. Normally, the Balafon is tuned from the lowest to the highest note, usually in a pentatonic chord (five tones), like, for example, the black mallets on a piano keyboard. Nowadays, “western” chords can be found as well, like diatonic and chromatic. But at all times, African musicians have known how to cope with influences coming from abroad in an own, original style.

Gum-rubber mallets on a balafon: A Balafon can be either fixed-key or free-key. The Balafon is generally capable of producing 18 to 21 notes, though some are built to produce many fewer notes. Balafon keys are traditionally made from Béné wood, dried slowly over a low flame, and then tuned by shaving off bits of wood from the underside of the keys. Wood is taken off the middle to flatten the key or the end to sharpen it. In a fixed-key Balafon, the keys are suspended by leather straps just above a wooden frame, under which are hung graduated-size calabash gourd resonators. A small hole in each gourd is covered with a membrane traditionally of thin spider’s-egg sac filaments – nowadays more usually of cigarette paper or thin plastic film to produce the characteristic nasal-buzz timbre of the instrument, which is usually played with two gum-rubber-wound mallets while seated on a low stool or while standing using a shoulder or waist sling hooked to its frame. This effect is accentuated by the sound of metal bracelets attached to the player’s wrist. Mallets and resonators are fixed on a frame of wood sticks and strings made of goat’s skin.

Regional traditions: As the Balafon cultures vary across West Africa, so does the approach to the instrument itself. In many areas the Balafon is played alone in a ritual context, in others as part of an ensemble. In Guinea and Mali, the Balafon is often part of an ensemble of three, pitched low, medium and high. The Susu and Malinké people of Guinea are closely identified with the Bala, as are the other Manding peoples of Mali, Senegal, and the Gambia. Cameroon, Chad, and even the nations of the Congo Basin have a long Balafon traditions. 

The Bala, kora , and the Ngoni  are the three instruments most associated with Griot bardic traditions of West Africa. Each is more closely associated with specific areas, communities, and traditions, though all are played together in ensembles throughout the region. Guinea has been the historic heartland of solo Balafon.  The Balafon, also known as Balafo, Bala, Balani, Gyil, and Balangi, is a type of tuned percussion instrument. It is played by using two padded sticks to strike the tuned keys.

***The gyil  is the name of a buzzing  Balafon common to the Gur-speaking populations in northern Ghana, Burkina Faso, southeastern Mali and northern Ivory Coast in West Africa…

In some cultures the Balafon was and in some still is a sacred instrument, playable only by trained religious caste members and only at ritual events such as festivals, royal, funeral, or marriage celebrations. Here the Balafon is kept in a temple storehouse, and can only be removed and played after undergoing purification rites. Specific instruments may be built to be only played for specific rituals and repertoires. Young adepts are trained not on the sacred instrument, but on free-key pit Balafons.

                                     *** Sabar Wolof Drums ***

 Sabar drumming is the very exciting syncopated drumming of the Wolof tribe in Senegal and Gambia. The Djola and Mandinka Sabar is very rare. The only place to see this Sabar is in rural areas during a ceremony such as a naming ceremony, wedding, or birthday. Wolof sabar can be seen throughout Senegal and Gambia in urban areas as well as rural. Sabar is not complete without the dance. Of course this is true with most drumming in West Africa. The dance is a very beautiful style… almost even like a martial arts. Sabar dancers display incredible flexibility and agility.

The Sabar drums are traditionally peg tuned…but some players today are using the more modern method of rope tuning. There are 5 drums in the Sabar family and they all have different sounds and roles to play in the music. The M’balax drum is the main rhythm drum and is fairly high in pitch and medium size. The N’der drum is the tallest and highest in pitch and is the lead drum and plays a lot of ‘calls’ or signals to cue the group what to do. The Toongani was originally a mandinka drum called the kutiro but was in recent years added to the Sabar ensemble. This drum is the smallest drum and has a unique bass sound.  The Joll is the lowest in pitch of the bass drums. It play various patterns and is also a solo drum. The highest pitch of the bass drums is the Tahnbat. This drum plays interweaving patterns sort of opposite the Joll. All drums are played with hand and  stick. 

In Gambia and Senegal the most common place to see Sabar drumming is at a ceremony such as naming ceremony, wedding, birthday, or return from Mecca. These ceremonies typically happen in the streets. It is very popular even outside the Wolof tribe. Most ceremonies of all tribes in Gambia and Senegal will have Sabar drumming at the party. Typically Sabar drumming and dance will start after all the formal ceremonies are finished. During a naming ceremony the child is given a name one week after he or she is born. In the morning the baby will be prayed for… as well as all the family prayed for… and during this time the baby’s head is shaved. Depending on what tribe the ceremony can have different events that follow. Typical food at this ceremony is benechin…or jaybuchin. 

Reference Sources:  Wikipedia = Roderick Knight = Charry  Eric = Erik Silverman = Mosheh Milon = Stephan Monssen = Souleyman Diop =  Gert Kilian = Stream Africa = Mike Bennett = Rob Holland = Kim Atkinson = Rob Simms = Google Search/Photo

 

***Women of the Calabash…

                ***SIMPLICITY IS THE KEY TO BRILLIANCE…
!!! Ilu-Shekere Agbaye = El Chekere Mundial !!!
!!! Ilu-Shekere Agbaye = El Chekere Mundial !!!

Mistakes Are The Portals Of Discovery * Play A Wrong Note = Insignificant * Play Without Passion = Inexcusable

Measure The Breath & The Length – The Hands Reaches Much Higher Than The Head – No Forest Is So Dense That The Iroko Tree Cannot Be Seen. May Your Life Be Clear & Pure Like Water Drawn Early In The Morning…

The Goddess “Shekere” Invents Her Own Life & Lives According To…Her Own Vision. This Quality Requires = Imagination – Dedication & Practice.  

*** Mother, with whom one enters into covenant for all good thing  the Woman that supreme among other Women  the mother that puts breast of wealth in her child’s mouth  you are not up to a louse before an unbeliever you are not up to an egg of the louse before a fool  you louse, the fire on head that burn them more than the real fire you are up to an egg of the louse and much more  you are up to an egg of the louse and much more.

Existence Is Not About Learning To Accept Reality, But Rather Remembering Your Power To Create It…

 

*** The Calabash is a functional creation of nature with a wide variety of uses and traditions in cultures around the world. “Shekere” is a general name to describe the beaded calabash rattle. It comes in many shapes and sizes, is played in a variety of styles, and has many different names. In Africa it is found primarily, but not exclusively, in the countries of Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, Benin, Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire. Different language groups in each country often have their own names, styles, techniques, and traditions associated with the Shekere.

Mother Shekere…. A Beautiful Face Will Age…A Perfect Body Will Change…But A Beautiful Soul Will Always Be A Beautiful Soul…

Calabash is the embodiment of Women’s Mystical Power, the ability to control physical & spiritual forces, to create life through procreation, and the sustenance of life are considered to be ultimate power. The Female being has been chosen by the creator to be the portal between the spiritual realm and this physical realm. 

 Be Strong Enough To Stand Alone = Be Yourself Enough To Stand Apart = But Be Wise Enough To Stand Together When The Time Comes.

All  Women of the Calabash ever really needed was someone who holds a safe space for us. Someone who sees our gifts and magic, understands the incredible potential this kind of presence is capable of and creates a safe place for it to unfold. You’re not complicated, you’re exquisitely created. You’re a unique gem waiting to be revealed from your raw form. Have you been touched by hands that don’t shake with the responsibility of revealing such extraordinary beauty? You deserve a confident touch and an experienced eye. If you’ve never felt fully seen, your beauty never fully revealed, know it’s not the perfection of your beauty that’s been missing, but the eye of one with the vision to see what’s been there all along. You’re more than enough. You always were.

There Is A Line Where Ignorance & Knowledge Merge As One. Everything That Can Be called Wisdom Happens On That Line.

The VAGINA is the 3rd dimensional portal to Mother Earth. In order for all souls to have a physical experience here on this planet, they must come through her divine portal. It’s no wonder that she is considered the – Gate of Heaven. The Intention Is To Offer Practical Guidance To Connect And Work With The Divine Mother Ancestral Wisdom, And To Use It To Empower Lives Today. The Calabash As Symbol For The Womb… Because Of Her Shape, Calabash also Symbolizes The “Womb”. In Both The Sense Of The Female Reproductive Organ As Well As In A Broader Creative Sense.

This Audio/Video presentation is dedicated to all the Players and Lovers of Shekere.

Reference Sources: Google Search/Photo = Wikipedia =

I look forward to your comments below!

“Has this guy got stories to tell. Yagbe Awolowo Onilu rightly deserves a place at the table of the Elders. The passion with which he has investigated and shared African spirituality with the rest of the planet has left us all richer.” Modupue Baba !!!  Scott Wardinsky

West African, Afro-Cuban, Afro-Haitian Master Drummer/Educator/Ethnomusicologist/Living Repository of Folkloric Knowledge/Keeper of the Flame…My Brother…Yagbe Awolowo Onilu…I am honored to know you. Kamau Mensah

“Thanks for posting this Chief Yagbe Awolowo Onilu Sometimes it appears that the shekere gets dismissed as a “rattle .” Like anyone can just pick one up and just shake it. Good to see emphasis on technique and rhythm.”

“The Straight Stick” Chief Yagbe Awolowo Onilu, My Friend, My Brother, My Mentor and indeed Master of many disciplines. You have been an inspiration to me and to many whom have crossed your path. Although it is only a fragment of the many secrets that you possess, this music/video is truly a blessing to me. The world needs to see and hear more of your work. Thank You for your unwavering energy and for breaking me down when proper instruction was necessary.  Joe PIlly Martinez 

Nothing so funky and profound can ever be dismissed…. Thank you Yagbe for making this available to us all. I hope more will be coming in the near future.     Gustavo Kayro

Me gusta mucho todo lo publicas me lo trámites se ve que eres apasionado en todo lo que quieres y en lo que haces verdaderamente toda mi admiración.   Mar Tandy  

Excellent information. The gourd is really the belly symbol that generates life – Container of Wisdom Supreme Orunmilá Baba Ifa, which introduced the principle of humanity. The magic is in the ability to generate weddings, continuing the human species. Ire, o!   Juliana Arruda 

Your work is priceless my Brother! Thank you for sharing!   Stan Corpus

Alafia! Adupe! Thank you for sharing the wisdom Yagbe. Ase’!   Maria Medina 

Gracias baba por todo su arduo trabajo y toda estas bellas enseñanzas. Yissell Diaz 

Heart throbbing beat… Sekere lo n Oba jo. Great Vibes abound, around and colorful. Ire Awon Irunmole…   Babatunde Kayode

I am hugely moved and humbled to be included in this photo tribute to the power of the Calabash Shekere to uplift and move people in both ancient and modern traditions! Thank you, Chief Yagbe Awolowo Onilu, for these very inspiring photos! And thank you for including me in this series! Blessings to you.  Jim Greiner 

Much appreciation for your efforts BABA needles to say that you’re constant dedication to the secrets of the CALABASH is second to none,I’m so blessed to have you as one of my closest Brother that I never had, I do really appreciate all that you do.   Mosheh Milon Sr 

 

 

RUMBA = La Negra Tiene Tumbao…

            El Espiritu De La Rumba: “Pa Ke Tu Me Llama”

African slaves first arrived in Cuba in the 16th century with the early Spanish settlers. Due to the reliance on sugar as an export during the late 18th and early 19th century, great numbers of slaves were brought to work on the sugar plantations. Where large populations of slaves lived, African religion, dance, and drumming were clandestinely preserved from generation to generation.

During the 19th century in Cuba, specifically in urban Havana and Matanzas, people of African descent originally used the word Rumba as a synonym for party. The term Rumbón is frequently used to denote rumba performances in the streets.

Rumba is a secular genre of Cuban music involving Dance, Drum, and Song. It originated in the central regions of Cuba, mainly in urban Havana and Matanzas, during the late 19th century. It is based on African music and dance traditions, namely Abakuá and Yuka, as well as the Spanish-based coros de clave.

Traditionally the Rumba has been classified into three distinct styles: Yambú, Guaguancó and Columbia. Both Yambú and Guaguancó originated in the solares, large houses in the poorest districts of Havana and Matanzas mostly inhabited by the descendants of African slaves.

Rumba instrumentation has varied historically depending on the style and the availability of the instruments. The core instruments of any rumba ensemble are the Claves, two sticks that are struck against each other, and the conga Drums: Quinto (lead drum, highest-pitched), Tres Dos (middle), and Tumba or Salidor (lowest-pitched). Other common instruments include the Katá or guagua, a wooden cylinder; the Palitos, sticks to struck the catá; shakers such as the Chekeré and the maracas; scrapers such as the güiro; bells, and cajones, wooden boxes that preceded the congas.

Yambú is considered the oldest style of Rumba, originating in colonial times. Hence, it is often called “yambú de tiempo España” – yambú of Spanish times. It has the slowest tempo of all Rumba styles and its dance incorporates movements feigning frailty.  Although Male dancers may flirt with Female dancers during the dance, they do not use the vacunao of Guaguancó.

Guaguancó is the most popular and influential rumba style. It is similar to Yambú in most aspects, having derived from it,  but it has a faster tempo. The term “guaguancó” originally referred to a narrative song style which emerged from the coros de clave of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Columbia is a fast and energetic Rumba, originated in the hamlets, plantations, and docks where men of African descent worked together. Unlike other Rumba styles, columbia is traditionally meant to be a solo male dance. Columbia originated from the drum patterns and chants of religious Cuban Abakuá traditions. The drum patterns of the lowest conga drum is essentially the same in both Columbia and Abakuá. The rhythmic phrasing of the Abakuá lead drum bonkó enchemiyá is similar, and in some instances, identical to columbia quinto phrases.

Men may also compete with other men to display their agility, strength, confidence and even sense of humor.  Columbia incorporates many movements derived from Abakuá and Yuka dances, as well as Spanish flamenco, and contemporary expressions of the dance often incorporate break dancing and hip hop moves. In recent decades, women are also beginning to dance Columbia.

In Cuba, Rumba is a generic term covering a variety of musical rhythms and associated dances. The Rumba has its influences in the music brought to Cuba by Spanish colonizers as well as Africans brought to Cuba as slaves. Rumba is more than a music and dance genre; it is the collective expression of the Creole nature of the island itself. Rumba is a secular genre of Congolese African and Spanish flamenco influences, and is one of the primary ancestors of popular music in Cuba.

Cultural retention among the Bantu (Palo), Yoruba (Lukumi), Fon (Arará), and Efik (Abakuá) had the most significant impact in western Cuba, where rumba was born. The consistent interaction of Africans and Europeans on the island brought about what today is known as Afro-Cuban culture.

Reference Sources: Google Search/Photo = Wikipedia =

***Magical Calabash…

***Calabash (Gourd) History & Cultural Background…

The Myth Of The Sacred Calabash = Mankind’s Most Useful Plant…. Magical Calabash Anthology Of Sacred Wisdom From The Ancestral Mothers And Magic.

The Calabash (Gourd), was one of the first plants cultivated by humans – not for food, but for use as a container.  It came from Africa and has accompanied us around the world for thousands of years.

In Africa, the Calabash (Gourd), plant, has long been used as a food and medicine, and its hard shell as a bottle, a dipper and even an ancient musical instrument. Calabash have traditionally been used to carry medicine, wine and “magic”.  Calabash were also tied to the backs of children and boat people to serve as life preservers. Calabash is also possibly mankind’s oldest musical instrument resonator. It is the only known plant whose use by humans spanned prehistoric cultures across the entire globe, but one thing that has puzzled scientists was how – given its African origins – it came to be so widely used in the Americas.

The Calabash (Gourd) seeds drifted across the Atlantic Ocean from Africa to the Americas, then took root and grew wild in the New World. The wild African Calabash belongs at the base of the bottle Calabash family tree.  The tree then splits into two main branches: African domesticated Calabash, and Eurasian ones. Both ancient and modern American Calabash samples belong to the African branch of the tree. 

Furthermore, genetic mutations showed that the American Calabash- shared a common Ancestor with African Calabash. The seeds of wild African Calabash may have washed out to sea to successfully germinate after making landfall in the welcoming climates of places like Florida,  and Brazil.

The Calabash (Gourd) is a functional creation of nature with a wide variety of uses and traditions in cultures around the world. A fruit of varied shape and size, it commonly grows on a vine not unlike the squash, but there are also varieties that grow on bushes and trees.

  ***The most highly esteemed and favorite Calabashes (Gourds) had chants composed for them as though they were human beings, and when they were placed on the table one would hear their owner with proud countenances, chanting of the celebrated deeds of those for whom they were named.

More and more, as Western utensils and pottery became available, traditional Calabashes were not thrown away but rather, were kept and treated as valuable heritage.

Ancient Shaped Calabashes (Gourds) – after the Calabashes had been shaped and hollowed they were finished with  tung oil to enhance the grain and polish the Calabash leaving it with a soft finish. Iron tools replaced the traditional stone and coral tools for fashioning Calabashes when they became popular to collect, they were often refinished with shellac to give the surface a glossy finish, the Calabash being treated as any piece of fine woodwork. Ancient methods of polishing Calabashes fell into disuse.

Repairing Calabashes (Gourds)during the crafting process or during the life of the Calabash was also a skilled art and repairs were often looked upon as marks of beauty. Repairs consisted of filling holes and cracks with wooden plugs and using plugs to stop cracks from enlarging. The most commonly identified repair is the butterfly repair.

***Steps which can be taken to ensure a longer life for your Calabash (Gourd). Because Calabashes are made of wood, an organic material, they are susceptible to damage from insects, humidity, light and dust. The following is a summary of how these forces work to accelerate deterioration of Calabashes and steps which can be taken to limit them. Insects Wood-boring insects such as termites are a major source of damage to Calabashes. They should be examined periodically for the presence of holes and fine pellet or sawdust droppings. If a Calabash has any cracks, as many do, these are sites of exposed wood which are particularly vulnerable to insect infestation. 

***Calabashes (Gourds)should never receive direct sunlight – Illuminated by bright spot lights. Dust can damage Calabashes by attracting insects and mold. The goals of safe storage are to avoid insects, mold, dust, light damage and damage due to mishandling. Calabashes should be stored in a clean, dry, dark storage space.

Calabash (Gourd) are related to melons, squash, pumpkins, and cucumbers, all members of the cucumber family.  The Calabash family also includes many economically important fruits and vegetables, including pumpkins, squash, and melons. Calabash are used by people throughout Asia, Africa, the Pacific Islands, the Caribbean and the Americas for musical instruments, including shakers, maracas, drums, horns, marimbas and various string gourds resembling a banjo.

Other uses include pipes, masks, canteens, water jugs, dippers, birdhouses, bath sponges and decorative Gourds with intricate etched designs. So important were Gourds to Haitian people in the early 1800’s that gourds were made the national currency.

Musical Calabash from Africa and India, such as drums, lutes and sitars, have beautiful, polished finishes decorated with beads and carved designs. Some of the earliest guitars and violins in the United States were made from Calabash by African slaves.  Shaker Calabash are probably one of the earliest of all musical instruments.

In Africa, hollow Calabash are covered with a loose netting strung with hundreds of beads. As the beads slap against the gourd, a loud shaker sound is produced–as good as any modern instrument for this purpose. Using the neck of the Calabash as a handle, the sound is amplified by the hollow interior.

But of all the uses for Calabash, some of the most interesting are the “Penis Sheath Calabash” worn by men of New Guinea. Penis Calabashes are also known from Africa and northern South America. There is considerable speculation among anthropologists about the purpose of such Calabashes, but most agree that they are more than a protective device and serve an important social function.

***Calabash was historically used as a container for water, and still is an essential utensil in many parts of the world. In rural areas of the U.S., they are often used as birdhouses…

In Africa it is found primarily, but not exclusively, in the countries of Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, DanXome, Sierra Leone and Côte-D’Ivoire. Different language groups in each country often have their own names, styles, techniques, and traditions associated with the Shekere. It is a personal instrument and never loaned or shared, even with family members. However, a son who is a professional musician may inherit his father’s Agbe-Shekere. Ilu-Shekere among the Yoruba of Nigeria are often connected with religion, given great respect, and play a very important role in certain traditional musical forms.

Ilu Anya *Shekere – Mangala* Chief Yagbe Awolowo Onilu

In Nigeria, the very Large beaded Calabash is called  “Agbe” Medium size Calabash “Sekere“ and Small size Calabash “Akese” Traditionally these Drums are used in Religious Worship strictly attached to Ritual Ceremonial events.

A Calabash Which Has No Base Is The One Which Sits On Its Side…

 

Reference Sources: The Caning Shop – Jim Widess = Earlybirds Farms = Buffalo Bill Meerschaum = Przemek Krawczynski = Jordan Straker = Everwilde Farms Inc. = Encyclopedia Britannica = Welburn Gourd Farm = Bernadette Fox = Suzanne McNeil = Patricia Boyd = Judy Richie = Southwest Gourds = Wikipedia =  Google Search/Photo