Also:       cabaca      piano-de-cuia      afuxê      xequerê      afochê      cabaça      afoxê      

Contextual Associations

The afoxê (also frequently referred to as the cabaça or cabaca) is an external-seed rattle idiophone of Brazil, most closely associated with the Afro-Brazilian culture of the Bahia region. Of the two specimens pictured here, the instrument seen in the gallery #2 photo is the more traditional. The instrument pictured in the first gallery shot is a modernized form that is widely used today in Brazil and also available throughout the world. The primary traditional context of usage of the afoxê in Bahia is for street processions also called afoxê, in which the music of the candomblé religious cult is brought into a secular setting during Carnaval. The afoxê, both in its traditional and modernized design, is also used as an auxiliary percussion instrument by Brazilian popular music artists, in Latin American dance bands, and, more recently, in the Western concert hall (a number of 20th century orchestral compositions call for it) and the world music scene.


This external-seed rattle (gallery #2) consists of a hollowed coconut seed affixed to a wooden handle and covered by a woven net strung with seeds. The modernized version (gallery #1) has a hollow vessel constructed from two wooded discs (forming its top and bottom) and a cylinder of sheet metal with a textured surface (its side). Loosely encircling the sheet metal side are several threads of ball chain. A handle penetrates the cavity’s top and bottom.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

The traditional afoxê can be sounded in a variety of ways--by shaking, striking, and rubbing.  The modernized version of this instrument is mostly sounded by rotating the handle so that the ball chain rubs against the textured surface of the vessel.


One of the many names of the afoxê--xequerê--suggests that the probable origin of this instrument is with the West African axatse. Knowledge of the sekere was likely carried by West Coast African slaves to the New World and reconstituted with available materials (either bottleneck gourds or coconut seeds). We were not able to pinpoint when companies such as Latin Percussion redesigned the afoxê into the form seen in the first gallery image, but it most likely was sometime in the late 20th century.

Bibliographic Citations

Blades, James. 1970. Percussion Instruments and Their History. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, Publishers.

________. 1984. “Cabaca [afochê, afoxê],” NGDMI v.1: 290.

Holland, James. 2005. Practical Percussion. Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press.

McGowan, Chris, and Ricardo Pessanha. 2009. The Brazilian Sound: Samba, Bossa Nova, and the Popular Music of Brazil. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.


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: beaters - pellets, seeds, shells, beads in net around vessel

Energy input motion by performer: shaking

Pitch of sound produced: indefinite pitch

Sound modification: none


4.3 in. diameter (gallery #1) 9.4 in. length (gallery #2)

Primary Materials

metal - sheet
wire - snare


Latin Percussion (gallery #1) unknown (gallery #2)


LP 234A (gallery #1) unknown (gallery #2)

Entry Author

Roger Vetter