Gardening Fun: Grow a Musical Instrument!

Little gourd shekere
By 
Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou

Planning on some gardening fun this year?

Sure, you're dreaming of delicious veggies and lovely flowers, but can you grow some useful household items or even a musical instrument?

Yes, in fact, you can!

If you take a bit of time and garden space to plant some easy-to-grow gourds, you can have a nice harvest in the Fall and some great dried gourds for crafts by this time next year.
 

Grow Some Gourds

Although gourds look a bit like some of your favorite squash plants, they are ornamental so don't plan on eating them. They grow on vines and can wind around your grass or garden or even grow up a fence or trellis.

They aren't picky or hard to care for, just plant them where they get full sun and give them enough water and they will delight you with different sizes and shapes as they grow!
 

Gourds as Crafty Fun & Musical Instruments

Other than the thrill of having some home-grown gourds around this autumn, you can dry what you grow and use them for great crafts. You could try growing Birdhouse Gourds (and I'm sure you can guess what those are most often used for). Sometimes this type of gourd was also dried and cut into a dipper or a homemade canteen or drinking gourd just like in the old folksong, Follow the Drinking Gourd.

In parts of Africa, pieces of these smaller gourds are assembled on a stick and they rattle as they are shaken back and forth. And although the birdhouse gourd does make an awesome for-the-birds project, it is also one of the types of gourds used in making shekeres—beaded percussion instruments that originated in Africa that look and sound fantastic!

Snake Gourds are great fun to grow and can easily be made into scary snakes for Halloween decorations or into rattles or Latin-American style guiros when dried.
 

A shakere made from a gourd

Gourds as Shekeres

Take a look at this awesome shekere made from a gourd. You can also make simpler versions of shekeres by attaching one string at the top as a collar and then helping your child string various lengths of beads (like in the photo at the top of this article). Attach the strings of beads and they will hang down and rattle against the gourd when played.

What does a shekere sound like? Find out here.
 

Snake Gourds as Guiros

A Guiro made from a gourdAfter a snake gourd is dried, you can decorate it and carve small ridges into the surface. These ridges can be scraped by an unsharpened pencil, a recycled chopstick or a hair pick for a wonderful guiro sound. To hear a guiro, click here.
 

Recycled "Gourds"

Can't wait a year to make these musical crafts from actual gourds? Here are some fun versions of the same instruments using recycled materials:

You can learn more about multicultural music and musical crafts from Daria at www.dariamusic.com and more about the cultural heritage of the shekere at Making Multicultural Music.
 

A gourd turned into a shekere

 

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