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(Shaken Idiophones or Rattles)
Maracas ( pronunciation (help·info), sometimes called rumba shakers) are a native instrument of Latin America. They are percussion instruments (idiophones), usually played in pairs. Originally, they consist of a dried calabash or gourd shell (cuia "koo-ya") or coconut shell filled with seeds or dried beans. Today they are also be made of leather, wood, or plastic.
Often one ball is pitched high, and the other is pitched low. There is evidence of clay maracas used by the natives of Colombia 1500 years ago. The word maraca is thought to have come from the Tupi language of Brazil, where it is pronounced 'ma-ra-KAH'. They are known in Trinidad, Dominica and the French Antilles as shac-shacs. The leather maracas were introduced in 1955 by a Venezuelan percussionist.
Even if it is a simple instrument, the method of playing the maracas is not obvious. The seeds or dried beans must travel some distance before they hit the leather, wood, or plastic, so the player must anticipate the rhythm. One can also strike the maraca against one's hand or leg to get a different sound. In a radio program that band leader Vincent Lopez hosted in the early 1950s called Shake the Maracas, audience members competed for small prizes by playing the instrument with the orchestra.
Maracas are heard in many forms of Latin music, and are also used in pop and classical music. They are considered characteristic of the music of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Panama, Venezuela, Dominica, the French Antilles, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Brazil. Maracas are often played at celebrations and special events. In rock and roll, they are probably most identified with Bo Diddley, who wrote the song "Bring it to Jerome" about his maraca player, Jerome Green (who also played maracas for Chuck Berry). Maracas are also very popular with children and are commonly included in the instruments of the rhythm band.
In Samba music and when children play the maracas, it is popular to complement the maracas with a apito or a pea whistle. In this connection it can happen that the whistle drowns the sound of the maracas. This problem can be avoided by using a maracas model that is as loud as possible, so that the volume level fits to the whistle.
List of musicians playing (also) the maracas
- Cedric Bixler-Zavala
- Mark "Bez" Berry
- Andrew Borger
- Davy Jones
- Bobbye Hall
- Edward Harrison
- Ismael Rivera
- Marcel Rodríguez-López
- Vicky Shell
- Steve Shelley
- Moisés Torrealba
- Samuel Torres
- Glen Velez
- Madeleine Sosin
- Blades, James (1992). Percussion instruments and their history (Rev. ed.). Westport, Conn.: Bold Strummer. ISBN 0-933224-61-3.
- Mendes, John (1976). Cote ce Cote la: Trinidad and Tobago Dictionary. Arima, Trinidad: Syncreators. p. 135.
- Grillo, Mario. "Mario Grillo's Online Video Lesson: How-to Play Maracas". Toca Percussion. "Toca artist, Mario Grillo is the son of renowned percussionist, Machito."
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