Ghanaian Axatse
Ghanaian Axatse. (c) C Squared Studios / Getty Images


The shekere is a percussion instrument that consists of a dried hollow gourd of which the larger half is covered with a net or web that is woven with shells or beads. It can be played by shaking, tapping, or by rubbing or pulling on the net with the hands, and the effect is sonically similar to maracas or other shaker instruments.

The shekere is found in various forms in a wide variety of West African musical genres, both traditional and contemporary, and is also a mainstay in certain genres of Afro-Cuban and Brazilian music.

Because the shekere is made of natural materials, including (usually) a real gourd, each individual instrument can vary substantially from the next in shape and size, which also affects the tone of the instrument. If you are interested in purchasing a shekere, you should consider trying out a variety of them and finding one that pleases you tonally, as it will most certainly affect your level of enjoyment when playing the instrument.

Pronunciation: SHAY-kuh-ray

Also Known As: The name "shekere" is the Nigerian name for the instrument. Other names include axatse(Ghana), djabara (Guinea), chekere or aggue (Cuba), xequere (Brazil), as well as lilolo, ushaka, chequere, agbe, and afoxe.