Monday, January 27, 2014


A cabasa is a percussion instrument, similar to the shekere, that is constructed with loops of steel ball chain wrapped around textured metal on round wheel or wide cylinder (usually made of wood or plastic). The cylinder normally is fixed to a long, narrow wooden or plastic handle and when the instrument is shaken it creates a sound similar to that made by using brushes on a high hat cymbalSounds can also be produced when the loops are scraped over the metal.  The player places his non-dominant hand on the metal chain, to provide pressure, while holding the wooden handle with the other hand and twisting the instrument back and forth as per the rhythmic pattern desired.

The metal cabasa was created by Martin Cohen, founder of Latin Percussion. This company has built a more durable cabasa that they call an afuche-cabasa. It provides a metallic, rattling sound when shaken or twisted, similar to the sound of a rattlesnake. It is often used in a number of different types of Latin American music, and is especially best known for its easily distinguished sound in bossa nova pieces, a Latin jazz style that derives from samba. In addition to Latin music, many band and orchestra pieces call for the cabasa.


The inspiration for creating the cabasa is the African instrument called the shekerean  instrument with a net of beads strung over the outer surface of a dried oval or pear-shaped hollowed out gourd.  Since shekeres are traditionally made out of gourds, size, and length of the handle depends very much on how large the gourd grows.

The cabasa is an instrument that is great for beginning musicians. Like the claves, a beginner can quickly be participating in the rhythmic elements of a piece. However, learning rhythm and timing, and the degree to which you must shake the instrument to produce its sound, is a matter of practice. Precise rhythmic effects can be gained by the advanced player.