Chekere (3 videos)

The chekere came to Cuba from Africa—that’s one reason why you can see so many different spellings of its name –chekere, shekere, sekere, etc., depending on which African nation is spelling/pronouncing it. But in Cuba today it has taken on its own identity, sound and technique. It was originally used only in sacred contexts to accompany songs from the Lucumi tradition in the style known as guiro. It was played in sets of three different sized gourds, with the larger gourd (the “agbwe”) playing the improvisations. Although the gourds certainly can (and still do) serve as a substitute when drums are not available, it is the case that certain orisha prefer the sound of the chekere to the drum, and will prefer to have guiro played for them instead of bembe or bata drums.

While this sacred function remains to this day, the chekere has now made its way into all the popular Cuban music forms, and can be found in timba, salsa, Latin/Jazz, and so on. We demonstrate those techniques here on the site, and in particular are honored and blessed to have had the good fortune to film Don Pancho Terry and his sons Junior and Yosvani teaching us their brilliant techniques, and passing on their knowledge of this skill.