Music Series: Requinto Jarocho

The requito jarocho (also known as guitarra de son or javalina) is a stringed instrument originating in south eastern Mexico. The instrument resembles a small classical guitar with only four nylon strings and a standard tuning of ADGc, although other tunings are sometimes used. It is generally made from a single piece of wood.


The requinto jarocho is traditionally used to accompany the son jarocho, a style of Mexican folk music. The instrument can be found in the song La Bamba by Los Lobos.


Instrument Series: Kantele

The Finnish kantele (also known as the harppu in Sami) is a stringed instrument in the zither family. It is traditionally made of a single piece of wood with five or six horse hair strings that run from wooden tuning pegs to a metal bar in wooden brackets. Modern kanteles are often made from multiple pieces of wood and have between 5 and 40 metal strings. Although the tuning varies depending on the size, the five string kantele is traditionally tuned to the first five notes of either a major or minor scale.


The exact origins of the kantele are unknown. It is debated whether the instrument originated in Byzantium (now Istanbul) or in Uralic – Altaic antiquity and was taken to Finland by the Slavs, whether it originated in FInland (as per the epic Kalevala), or whether it originated in Asia. It is believed to be 2000 – 3000 years old.

The kantele was traditionally used to accompany Rune singers and in folk music. Though it’s had limited use in pop music, it can be found in the jazz music of Karelia and an electric version is sometimes used by the heavy metal band Amorphis. It can be found in the song Salt in Our Wounds by HIM.

Instrument Series: Caxixi

The caxixi is a percussion instrument originating in Africa. It consists of a bell shaped wicker basket that is filled with seeds, shells, pebbles or beads and closed with a flat piece of gourd. Some modern caxixis are made of sheet metal, filled with plastic pellets, and closed with fiberglass.


The instrument is played by shaking it so that the seeds inside hit either the sides of the basket or the gourd. the caxixi is often used to accompany the berimbau to provide music for capoeira.

Instrument Series: Mbira

The Mbira (also known as the thumb piano and the sanza, or the marimbula or kalimba in the Caribbean) is a percussion instrument originating somewhere along the west coast of Africa around 3000 years ago. The instrument consists of 20 – 28 flattened metal or bamboo tines of varied length, with each length being a different pitch, attatched to a soundboard. It is sometimes placed inside a calabash resonator and played by stroking the tines with the thumbs and right index finger.


Traditionally, the mbira is used for ceremonies, such as weddings and funerals, for religious events, and for attracting spirits to those seeking their advice. Though its use in pop music is sparse, it can be found in the music of David Bowie, Wilco, King Crimson, Tinashe, and Nine Inch Nails to name a few. It can also be found in the songs Broken Drum by Beck and Evil by Earth, Wind & Fire.