Contextual Associations

The caxixi is a rattle idiophone used as a secondary sound source in the performance of the Brazilian berimbau bow. It is also used as an auxiliary percussion instrument by some Brazilian popular music artists, and as a freestanding rattle in hand drum and world music percussion groups.


The shell of this closed rattle is made from lengths of wicker woven into a bell shape the opening of which is covered with a flat fragment of gourd. Several seeds are inserted into the bell form before it is enclosed. A U-shaped handle is provided at the apex of the bell shape for ease of handling.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

A berimbau player holds the caxixi in the same hand as the stick (baqueta) used to strike the berimbau, the striking action serving also as a shaking motion to sound the caxixi. When played as a freestanding rattle, the caxixi is held by its handle and shaking in a predominantly up-and-down direction to thrust the seeds against the shell.


Basket rattles such as the caxixi were likely used by some indigenous Brazilian Indian groups prior to being incorporated into the Afro-Brazilian capoeira tradition as a secondary sound source for the berimbau.  

Bibliographic Citations

n.a. 1984. "Caxixi." NGDMI v.1: 319.

Schechter, John M. 1984. “Berimbau [berimbau de barriga, urucungu.]” NGDMI v.1: 221-222.


Instrument Information


Continent: Americas

Region: South America

Nation: Brazil

Formation: Afro-Brazilian

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

112.13 idiophone--vessel rattles: rattling objects enclosed in a vessel strike against each other or against the walls of the vessel, or usually against both

Design and Playing Features

Category: idiophone

Energy input motion by performer: shaking

Basic form of sonorous object/s for idiophone: hollow spheroid vessel - closed

Sound objects per instrument: one

Resonator design: sonorous object itself is a general resonating space

Number of players: one

Sounding principle: striking - indirect

Sound exciting agent: beater/s - pellet/s, seed/s, bead/s inside closed vessel/s

Energy input motion by performer: shaking

Pitch of sound produced: indefinite pitch

Sound modification: none


11.8 in. height

Primary Materials




Entry Author

Roger Vetter