Percussion instruments are the oldest form of musical instrument in the world and have been played for many thousands of years, long before professional instrument-makers existed. The history of Carnival percussion is also linked to the history of slavery. When slave owners banned slaves from using drums, slaves developed a range of alternative rhythm instruments in response. Following these examples, we can recycle and re-use things from our kitchen to make and play our own percussion instruments at home. Or just grab a pot or pan and a wooden spoon – professional Samba percussionists in Brazil play a frying pan (one-egg sized, stainless steel with no coating sounds best).
Once you have made your instruments, you can join in with our 2019 Carnival Percussion Workshops with Xi-mali Kadeena-Guscos. (Yes, we did recycle the bottles – our infection control policy means that everything served at events is pre-packaged.)
Kitchen Carnival Shaker
Shakers are one of the oldest percussion instruments in the world, and have been used for many thousands of years. Shakers were originally made from the hard shell of a fruit such a gourd, using seeds inside to make the rattling noise.
To make the Kitchen Carnival Shaker you need:
- An empty plastic milk carton with a handle, preferably the larger size, or another empty plastic kitchen container with a handle. This will be your shaker.
- A second empty plastic container of any shape or size. This will make the rattling noise.
- Felt-tipped pens to decorate [optional].
- Glue [optional].
1) Wash both containers thoroughly – be careful if either previously contained cleaning fluid. Get as much of the label off as possible from the container that will be your shaker.
2) [optional] Decorate your shaker using felt-tipped pens. Make sure you have a window or door open, because felt-tipped pens contain solvent that is bad for your lungs.
3) Cut up the second container into pieces that are small enough to fit into your shaker.
5) Put the lid back on the shaker. Glue the lid on if a child or adult might take out the cut-up pieces of plastic and put it into their mouths.
6) Now you are ready to play your Kitchen Carnival Shaker. It will make the loudest sound if you hold the handle at the bottom.
Kitchen Carnival Guiro
The Taíno people who originally occupied the Caribbean islands created the Guiro, cutting notches in a length of gourd or bone, and then scraping along the edges using a stick or pick to create the sound.
To make the Kitchen Carnival Guiro you need:
- An empty plastic bottle with ridged patterns on it, for example a water bottle or a squash bottle.
- An old wooden spoon or other wooden cooking utensil to use as a scraper.
- [optional] Felt-tipped pens for decorating.
- Washing-up sponge.
1) Wash the bottle thoroughly and get as much of the label off as possible. Remove the lid from the bottle so that the sound can come out of the neck.
3) [optional] Decorate your bottle and your scraper with felt-tipped pens. Make sure you have a window or door open, because felt-tipped pens contain solvent that is bad for your lungs.
4) Now you are ready to play your Kitchen Carnival Guiro by scraping along the bottle. Hold the guiro from the bottom by the bottle neck in one hand, and hold the large end of the spoon in the other hand. You can also hit the Kitchen Carnival Guiro with your spoon to make a different noise.
The Kitchen Carnival Percussion Pan drums are related to the original Steel Pan drums developed in Trinidad in the first half of the twentieth century. These were made from empty gallon oil drums from the local refinery. People such as Ellie Mannette, Winston “Spree” Simon, and Tony Williams are credited as pioneers of the Steel Pan drum, where 12 different notes can be played on a single can through hammering a series of differently shaped dents into the surface. Steel Pan drums are the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago. The Kitchen Carnival Percussion Pan drums use different sizes of cans to make different sounds (not notes).
To make the Percussion Pan drums you need:
- 2 or more different cans with metallic bottoms, such as drinking chocolate or instant potato cans.
- Cling film.
- 2 wooden spoons or cooking utensils to make beaters. (Or you can use chopsticks.)
- [optional] Acrylic paint and felt-tipped pens for decorating the pans and beaters.
- Washing-up sponge.
1) Brush out the cans thoroughly, take off the lids and turn the cans upside down. Experiment by hitting the metal bottoms with a wooden spoon to hear which sound each can makes – you want each can that you use to make a different sound from the rest.
2) [optional] Using the discarded plastic can lids as paint palettes, paint each can a different colour. This will help you to remember which can makes which note. (If you find it hard to hold a paintbrush or don’t have one, you can also cut off a piece of washing-up sponge and sponge the paint on this way.) You will usually need to put two or three coats of paint on each can, leaving time for each coat to dry before putting on the next.
3) Rub your wooden spoons or other wooden cooking utensils with the scratchy side of a dry washing-up sponge to smooth out any splinters.
4) [optional] Decorate your wooden spoons or other wooden cooking utensils with paint or felt-tipped pens. Make sure you have a window or door open when using felt-tipped pens, because they contain solvent that is bad for your lungs.
5) Pull off enough clingfilm to tie around each can once, and then again around all the cans together, leaving enough clingfilm to make a loop for your hand.
6) Now you are ready to play your Kitchen Carnival Percussion Pans with your wooden spoons or chopsticks – hold the beaters by the larger ends. You can hold the pans in one hand and one stick in the other, or place the Pans on a surface and use two beaters. Experiment to make different rhythms.