If you lived in ancient times or tribal days – what would you use to make music? You’d probably look around you for sticks, stones, bones or even seed pods that fell from trees! These would make excellent percussion and if you’re lucky enough to live in a tropical region, there are several trees that actually grow very cool seed pod rattles such as the pacay shaker seen on the colorful Peruvian cloth above. You can learn more about seed pod trees here or in the more detailed links below.
The Pacay “Ice Cream” Tree
Isn’t that a cool name for a tree? The tall and lovely pacay tree got this name because the soft white pulp between the seeds in the seed pods is delicious and a favorite among kids dating back to the Incan times in South America. In fact, the earliest story of this seed pod comes from when the Spanish invaded South America and the last Inca gave a basket of pacay seed pods to Pizzaro as a gift. Now grown as shade trees near coffee plantations in Peru, this giant 60 foot tree is also found throughout Central America and the beans (seeds) are eaten as well. In Mexico, the beans inside the seed pods are roasted and served on the streets as a snack!
The Flame or Flamboyant Tree
Although the seed pods to this tree appear similar to the pacay shakers, the trees they come from are really different. The flamboyant tree is native to Africa but found throughout tropical regions around the world. In some locations, such as Puerto Rico, it’s a beloved and iconic image seem in everything from photos to folk art!
The tree itself is ornamental, smaller in size, has fern-like leaves and bright, beautiful red flowers so it’s easy to see how it got it’s name. Although the seeds here are not edible, the seed pods still make nice natural percussion instruments to use as shakers.
How Do You Make A Seed Pod Shaker?
That’s a trick question – you don’t! They work as rattles directly from the tree. Well, when dried, of course. If you’re in an area where these trees grow you’ll probably find seed pods that have fallen and are hard, dry and brown in color. At that point, pick them up and shake them and they are instant rattles!
Will each seed pod sound the same? Try several and see for yourselves!
Although this is a really basic and simple instrument, there are several ways to get different sounds from a seed pod rattle. Try any of these:
- Rattle it back and forth or up and down.
- Rattle it slowly then build up a crescendo.
- Hold it in one hand and tap it against the other.
- March or dance while shaking it, letting the beat become part of your movement or music!
Links and Resources
Lost Crops of the Incas: Little-Known Plants of the Andes with Promise for Worldwide Cultivation https://www.nap.edu/read/1398/chapter/33#284
The Flame or Flambouyant Tree – https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delonix_regia
The Flamboyant Tree: A Puerto Rico Icon: http://caribbeantrading.com/the-flamboyant-tree-a-puerto-rico-icon/
Pacay: A Tree, a Fruit, a Bean, and a Musical Instrument – http://kidworldcitizen.org/2013/10/21/pacay-tree-fruit-bean-musical-instrument/