How To Make Your Own Gourd Maraca

By S. Herlihy

A gourd is a plant with a hard outer rind such as a pumpkin or a squash. A maraca is a musical instrument. For many centuries, gourds have been used to make maracas by many societies including the pre-Columbian inhabitants of Mexico. Today you can bring this ancient tradition into your home and make your own handcrafted musical instrument.

Select a gourd. Find one that fits into your hand comfortably. Larger gourds can be hard to work with so a smaller one is ideal. Look for gourds that have no visible rot on the outside.

Cut a small hole in the bottom of the gourd with a carving knife. The hole should be no larger than your thumb. Scoop away any seeds and hollow out the gourd gently. Roughly two-thirds of the inside should be removed. Let dry overnight in an arid place.

Bake 1/2 cup of dried beans in an oven for at least 20 minutes at 350 degrees to preserve them, then let them cool. Add the beans as filling to the maraca so it will make noise when shaken. Rice can also be used as filling. Do not cook the rice. You'll just need 1/3 cup of rice.

Insert a wooden dowel in the small hole at the end of the maraca. The handle should have no splinters. Seal the end carefully with glue. Wind thick tape around the opening and the dowel to keep the handle in place. Paint on a design with non-toxic paint. Bright colors like yellow and green will emphasize the organic nature of the original gourd.

Shellac the finished product to preserve the maraca. The shellac will make the maraca look shiny. The gourd should last at least two weeks and possibly much longer.