Cabasas and shekeres are quite a rousing subject to write about and I’ll start this one off by saying that they’re actually both very similar, not just syllabically speaking, but in terms of their sound, too. Although they look quite different, they both produce a scratchy-shaky sound, and the technique used to produce the sound is also very similar.
The cabasa is a string of metallic beads wrapped around a wide metallic cylinder – very similar to the beads one might find attached to their bath plug. The cylinder is typically corrugated which is a catalyst to the end result as it allows the beads to scrape along the rumpled surface. The cylinder itself is connected to a handle, usually made out of wood or plastic. The player would have one hand holding the handle with the other placed over the beads, when the handle is turned, the eagerly awaited scratchy-shaky effect will come to fruition. You can really use whichever technique you see fit to make the most out of this fascinatingly beautiful instrument, but this is one method.
As mentioned above, the shekere is very similar to a cabasa but is made out of completely different materials. Instead of the wide metallic cylinder and wooden or plastic handle, the shekere is actually a gourd with the natural shape allowing for a handle. Instead of the metallic beads, the shekere uses the seeds from the fruit which are strung around the gourd itself, thus creating a similar scratchy-shaky effect, but not quite as cutting as the cabasa. Another effective way of playing the shekere, which isn’t quite so suitable for the cabasa, is to simply hold the handle and stab it up or down.
Modern shekeres now tend to produce plastic “gourds and seeds”, but create the same effect.