I recently got a hold of a Gon Bops Shekere (aka Sekere, Chekere) as I was traveling and needed something very durable to withstand the rigors of my lifestyle. I would like to note that I also make Shekeres myself, but I always use hard shell gourds. The traditional method. I like the feel and sound. The problem is that for me, gourds and traveling about do not mix well. This is because gourds crack and break easily. If you toss one in the air and drop it or miss (a move advanced players use a lot) or hit it with your knee (another move) and miss the correct part of the gourd you can crack your gourd so to speak. Also, if someone else grabs it at a drum circle…. or wherever you are playing and hits it to hard in the wrong spot it can crack easily. This Shekere is built well and the materials seem to be very high quality, too.
I was reluctant at first about this Shekere because I had tried the LP and several other commercially made Shekere’s several times but they are usually way to heavy and do not have good bead action. “Action” is the term used to describe how the beads slide across the surface of the gourd, or in this case the rawhide ball. Akbar, the lead designer at Gon Bops designed this Shekere out of rawhide instead of using the traditional gourd, which is an actual plant shaped like a pumpkin. The problem with traditional hard shell gourds is that they crack easily and differ in shape from one to the next so it is hard for a manufacturer to produce a uniform product. The bead action is good on this Shekere and the beads move well.
The sound is great on this Shekere. There are two basic sounds on any Shekere. The sound the beads make crossing the gourd and also the sound you make when you strike the bottom of the Shekere which we call the tone. The tone is exceptional, much better then on a traditional gourd as it is a completely sealed inside the Shekere. Gon Bops uses some sort of resin to seal the gourd and this makes for a loud resonating tone. The sound of the beads crossing the gourd shape is also quite nice. The net is not too tight and it is easy to play and manipulate.
It is not the lightest Shekere out there but it is not the heaviest either. However, if weight is an issue or if you are looking for a super light Shekere, like any other instrument purchase you might want to try this Shekere out first before ordering or buying one. For me it is not too heavy, I would call it “medium weight”. I am used to this type of weight and heavier Shekeres and if you are in good shape you will get used to it in no time. In my opinion it is lighter and better sounding then the LP and other commercial brands out there. As a professional player and Shekere maker myself I prefer hand made artisan Shekeres made by individual artists, but like any other hand made instrument you have to wait to get them and they are not necessarily better, it depends on who is making them. They are great for advanced players but not beginners because of the delicacy factor about the actual gourd. I have had the traditional gourds crack simply from someone grabbing them by the neck (the weakest point) on the gourd.
So to recap, this is a great sounding Shekere, good bead action, medium weight and very durable. It has a nice feel too it and looks nice. It is a great Shekere to practice and learn on as well as it is forgiving if you drop it or if it falls down. Please click on the brown link directly below to see a video of me testing out this Shekere and listen for yourself. I feel it is a good choice for a beginning or intermediate player and also for a professional who travels or is gigging and needs a durable product.