Rainsticks

Spring Rain
by Matsuo Basho

Spring rain
leaking through the roof
dripping from the wasps’ nest

Rainsticks have been used by many cultures, but Chile is typically associated with its origin. Traditionally, they were made out of hollowed and dried cacti which had their exterior thorns removed and hammered back in. Small lava pebbles were inserted, the ends covered with wood, and when the tube was rotated they cascaded over the thorns creating a lovely rain-like sound. They were then used to call upon the gods to provide rain in what were very dry climates.

Today, they are commonly used as percussion instruments, and purchased by tourists as souvenirs of their travels. And you know it’s really gone mainstream when there’s a Rainstick App for the iphone.

Why not make a rainstick to celebrate Earth Day (April 22nd). Think about all the positive things we can do for our planet and write a spring poem about it, or call on the rain gods while dancing to some great Chilean music.

Materials

  • 1 1/2″ x 18″ cardboard mail tube
  • foil
  • beans, rice or similar
  • paint
  • sponges and paint brushes
  • yarn
  • elastics (optional)
  • feathers

Instructions

1. Cut a piece of foil 1 1/2 times the length of the tube. Squish it lengthwise and make a long zigzag shape. Insert it into the tube so it takes up the entire length, and add about a 1/4 cup of rice or something similar. This will fall over the foil and make noise when you rotate your tube. Place the cap on the end, and if you want to make sure it doesn’t open up, add a little glue on the inside first. Next, add several colorful elastics near the top. The elastics are optional, but I found they prevented the yarn from slipping down.

2. When deciding what to paint on the tube, try and focus on elements in nature like the sun, flowers, animals, etc. Remember, rainsticks were traditionally made with things found only in nature. You can also create interesting textures by dipping sponges in the paint and applying it to your tube.

3. Once dry, tie several strands of different coloured yarn near the top. Attach a few feathers to the ends and you’re ready for some barefoot dancing to invoke the spirits.

Books to accompany this project:

Rainforest Rhythm

The Rainstick Pack

Music From Chile:

Inti Illimani

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Filed under Chile, Multicultural Art, rain stick

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