The cuica is a percussion instrument that resembles a drum but is actually played through direct contact friction with the drumhead. It can be made from wood, plastic or metal with a bamboo or wooden stick that has a damp sponge or piece of leather attached. The cuica is placed on the player’s lap as they use their whole arm and rod inside the body of the drum.
History of the Cuica
The cuica has its origins in Africa but no-one knows the exact origins of its creation. Many bizarre theories exist on how this unique instrument came to be, including: that its unusual friction sound was used to attract African predators. Early models of a cuica may have been created from gourd-like fruit and bamboo sticks. The cuica was later brought to Brazil by Bantu slaves and many years on, the sound became a key part of Brazilian latin music in South America. Western travelers such as linguist Dr. Lorenzo Dow Turner came across the cuica in its primitive form with a wooden drum head. Nowadays, a cuica is usually constructed with plastic and metal. This membranophone instrument is now typically used in Brazilian festivals where there can be entire cuica sections within a larger band. The cuica began to appear in 20th and 21st century pop music as an exotic latin influence became increasingly popular.
Inventor: Unknown

Where to Buy

£60 - £300

How to Play

A percussion instrument that is played by rubbing a stick along the inside of a drumhead that is attached to a resonating body. This creates a high-pitched, squeaky sound that can be varied in pitch by changing the pressure of the stick.

In Popular Music

The unique rubbing sound of the cuica can be heard in 'Me and Julio down by the schoolyard' by American songwriter Paul Simon as well as Bob Marley's 'Could You Be Loved'. Any song with a Caribbean influence has benefitted from this friction instrument

Famous Players

Airto Moreira, Nana Vasconcelos

Close Relations

Tamborim, Surdo

Video Credit: Pearl Drums

Understanding the Cuica










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