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Percussion (world)

Published: Mon March 23, 2009


World Percussion covers a vast range of instruments, both ancient and modern, that are either played with the hands or struck with a beater. Percussion is important in music education as it develops rhythm and has links with mathematics, history and culture.

Using world percussion is an excellent way of adding intriguing and unusual sounds into your music and many of today’s top artists actively employ many percussion sounds. Probably the most recognised percussion instruments today come from Africa (drumming), South America (Latin percussion) and the Caribbean (steel pans).

African percussion mainly uses hand drums called Djembe to build complex rhythms that are supported by foil metal attachments played in a similar way to cymbals. These are known as Kessing-Kessing after the sound they make. Also common are basket shakers called Caxixi and Gourd Shekeres.

Latin percussion also invokes passion and energy by using hand drums, known as Congas, Bongos and Cajon as well as lighter rhythms from Maracas and Rainsticks.

Caribbean steel pans are made from oil drums of different sizes tuned with different notes and the different sized pans make up steel pan bands. Percussion can be divided into tuned percussion – such as steel pans, marimbas, glockenspiels, xylophones, where individual notes are struck; and non-tuned percussion where the instrument is not tuned to different notes but relies on different tones emanating from the instrument depending on which part of the surface of the instrument is played.

What to look for

  1. Be sure you get the best quality by buying from a recognised importer purchasing authentic instruments from the correct country of origin.
  2. Percussion instruments can be made of traditional materials or a modern-day equivalent, for example fibre-glass, which may be more durable and need less tuning which can compensate for what is lost from an authentic look.
  3. Be sure to experiment and above all have fun! World percussion groups and events have an amazing energy and are very inspiring. Many people use world percussion as a learning, healing and social experience.
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