Hex-Jam Shakers, Udukere, and Small Fiberglass Shekere
Handheld gems from the world’s sole percussion-only manufacturer.
Bangkok-based Tycoon has been making top-notch percussion instruments since 1983. Everything it produces is manufactured in its own factory, which allows the company to keep a keen eye on quality.
Tycoon is also dedicated to using the most environmentally responsible methods available. All of the wood is harvested from renewable sources, and all of the waste (sawdust, leftover rawhide and rope, and plywood pieces) is recycled and used for packing materials and fuel and to make dog toys and smaller percussion instruments that are donated to impoverished communities in Thailand.
This month we’re checking out four of Tycoon’s newest handheld instruments: 6″ ($30) and 8″ ($35) Hex-Jam Shakers, a unique udu/shekere hybrid instrument called Udukere ($249), and the Small Natural Fiberglass Shekere ($139).
The Hex-Jam Shakers are available in two lengths: 6″ and 8″. Both are 6.5″ wide and made from Jamjuree wood, which is also known as Siam walnut. The flat wood sides and hexagonal shape make these shakers very comfortable to hold and play, and they produce a crisp, accurate sound with a touch of warmth. These are great all-purpose shakers for situations that require articulate patterns that sit comfortably in the upper midrange of the music. The 6″ has a more subtle and slightly hollow sound, while the 8″ is a bit louder and takes up more sonic space.
The udu is a Nigerian instrument that originated as a clay water jug with an additional hole cut into the bottom. It can be used to create a wide range of high and low tones, depending on where you strike it. Tapping the side of the jug with the fingers creates a high-pitched texture, while cupping the hole on the bottom with the palm elicits a deep bass tone.
For the Udukere, Tycoon combined the udu design with a West African shekere, which is traditionally made from a dried gourd with beads woven around the circumference. The result is a unique instrument that can be slapped, shook, and twisted to create various shaker textures with a touch of high/low tonality. The Udukere was designed by Tycoon artist Kornel Horvath, who often holds the instrument upside-down in his lap while playing it, so he can take full advantage of the deep bass tones within two-hand rhythmic patterns. This is a super-fun instrument for building kick/snare/hat-type percussion loops in the studio or for accompanying singers and instrumentalists on low-volume gigs. It measures 11.25″x11.75″, which makes the Udukere very portable as well.
Small Natural Fiberglass Shekere
As a more compact and lightweight alternative to the larger shekeres in Tycoon’s catalog, the company developed this version, which measures 11.5″x11.75″ and is made from fiberglass that’s finished to have the appearance of a natural gourd. The plastic beads are hand-strung to an adjustable nylon web and are smaller than the ones on the larger Udukere, which allows for greater control and softer rattle sounds while still providing enough sharpness and volume when required. The bass tones produced by striking the bottom aren’t as deep and prominent as they are on the Udukere, but you can still achieve a functional sub-bass-type sound to incorporate into your patterns. There’s a rubber ring around the opening to protect the edge from damage. I found the Small Natural Fiberglass Shekere to be most valuable for recording situations where I wanted to incorporate some of the dense, earthy texture of a traditional shekere without the mix getting overwhelmed with excessive rattle. You could also use this smaller version on gigs where you need a controlled and focused shekere sound.