CongaDr+ Tony's Conga Adventures: Guiro - history and current practice

Saturday, August 7, 2010

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Guiro - history and current practice

There is this intriguing religious and ceremonial form in Cuba called Guiro.

It is commonly played with three gourds netted with beads, a Guataca, or hoe blade used as a bell, and one conga.

Guiro is an amazing form that has roots in the 'indigenous' peoples of the Caribbean, the Taino. With what we know today about ancient human migrations around the globe, I think its highly likely that the human and gourd relationship predated this migration out of Africa, and the seed were carried around the world.

When Africans arrived in the 'new world', they were probably surprised to see the plant with which they were so familiar.

Here is a link to info about the Taino people and culture, a Taino water jug, a recreation of one of their villages:

According to this article, in ceremony, the Taino ingested the highly toxic seeds of the gourds to induce hallucinations and a deeper connection to the ancestor, and their spirits. The gourds must have been a deeply significant plant in their culture. They have so many functional uses for humans, it is said to be the oldest cultivated plant, dating back to the stone age.

Fast forward ten thousand years.. and the mixture of African, Spanish and American traditions manifest in what is now practiced as an important facet of Cuban spiritual life, the Guiro ceremony.

Here is a painting of the arrival of the Spanish, and the first cultural encounter of the Taino people, and their chief at the time, Agueybana. And a picture of women of Taino decent.

Perhaps the knowledge, and musical use of beaded netting around the gourd, was something that was brought to the Americas in the minds of Africans - manifested in the creation of the Chekere, or Shekere used today. Here is a beaded gourd called a Agbe from Nigeria, a Cubano from Matanzas sporting a sweet traditional Cuban Chekere, my Maestro Sandy Perez on Chekere, and a clip of the Guiro Ceremony practiced today in Cuba.


  1. As always, gracias....Cecil will always be in our hearts. The way everyone came together is a testament to all who allow themselves to be guided by Love. My brother, your efforts were Blessed. And that my friend is the Golden Rule.....Cuidate. Your brother, Sammy

  2. Thanks Sammy, It was an honor and a pleasure. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to pay respect to Brother Cecil.


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