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The Mudcat Cafesj

Gourd Rattlers


Originally from Africa, but now common in Latin America, this large calabash has it's rattle outside. The most effective sound comes when there are many small glass beads on a loose network of strings.

Gourd, preferably about 6" in diameter with a neck as pictured above
String or cord, thin enough to slip through beads
Beads, wooden or glass
Candle wax
Masking or cellophane tape

To make:
1. With a knife, cut off narrow end of the gourd, leaving enough of the end to grasp comfortably (A).
2. Scoop out seeds and extra membrane in the gourd.
3. Dry throughly in the hot sun or in the oven at a low, even temperature.
4. Cut a piece of string about 4" long and tie it in a circle (B). Lay on a flat surface.
5. Cut 12 pieces of string (more for a larger gourd), each about twice the height of the gourd, or at least long enough to tie knots on each side of each bead and to knot at base of gourd. Tie these strings at equal intervals around the circle of string (C).
6. Dip free end of each string in melted candle wax, to make threading beads easier. When burning a candle, enough wax forms around the candle wick to dip strings. Let wax on string harden. Make a knot in string, slip on a bead and knot again. This will hold the bead in place. Repeat this procedure ar equal intervals until you have four or five beads on each string (D). The size of the gourd determines how many beads to use.
7. Tape circle with beads onto the rounded top of gourd; use masking tape or cellophane tape (E).
8. Loosely tie a circle of string around the handle base (F). This will hold the beaded strings in place.
9. Attach the beaded string with knots to the string circle, adjusting them so that the strings are loose and will rattle against the side of the gourd.

To play:
This is especially fun to play because, besides just being shaken, it can be tossed and caught-in rhythm, of course.

Gourd Rattle

Gourds are easy to grow. They can often be found in the market. especially in a local farmers' market. The type an amount of rattles used inside change the sound dramatically.

1 dried gourd, any shape or size, but hard and firm
Rattles-seeds from gourd, pebbles, beans
Knife or hand saw, to cut neck of gourd
Narrow spoon or knife
Dowel or stick, 6" long and the width of neck of gourd in diameter, if necessary
Twine or heavy string
White glue
Poster paints and shellac

To make:
1. With knife, cut off the narrow end of the gourd; if neck is long enough, leave most on for handle (A).
2. With narrow spoon or knife, scoop out seeds and membrane inside the gourd. Save seeds for rattle.
3. Dry gourd in the hot sun or oven at a low even temperature.
4. When dry, fill gourd with seeds, beans or pebbles.
5. If it's long enough for a handle, reattach gourd end with white glue.
6. If dowel is needed for handle, place glue on one end of dowel and insert in the neck of gourd (B). Dry. Dip twine in white glue and wrap firmly around the dowel and up the gourd about 1/2" (C).
7. If desired, paint a bright colorful design on gourd with poster paint; when dry, shellac to protect finish. Or you may leave it natural.

To play:
Shake rhythmically.

A long season of drying in the warm sun and wind is the best for gourds. In colder climates the process can be speeded up by a warm oven. Be sure the gourd is completely dry before cutting otherwise it will shrink and wrinkle.

Hawaiian Uli-Uli

This is the Hawaiian version of the gourd rattle. The hula dancer carries it with the gourd downward to emphasize the movement of the bright feathers and the movement of her grass skirt.

2 dried gourd, each about 3" in diameter
Spoon or knife, for cutting and scooping out gourd
2 dowels, each about 5" long and wide enough in diameter to fit neck of gourd
Beans, for rattles
White glue
1/4" plywood, 5"x10", to make two 5" circles
Saw, hand or electric
2 nails
Feathers or crepe paper-enough to decorate the plywood discs

To make:
1. With a knife, cut off the neck end of each of the gourds, leaving enough of the neck to insert a dowel for a handle (A).
2. Scoop out seeds and membrane with a spoon or knife.
3. Dry gourd in the hot sun or oven at a low even temperature.
4. Cut two 5" circles from the plywood (B). Center a nail in each circle and nail through to dowels (C).
5. Insert about 10 beans for rattles in gourds. Place glue on dowel, insert in neck of gourd and dry (D).
6. Attach feathers or crepe paper to plywood circles with glue or staples.

To play:
The dancers hold a shaker in each hand, with the gourd down and the feathers up to accent the traditional hand movements of the hula. At intervals, they tap the gourd half of one instrument on the feathered wood circle of the other.