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Historical Museum of Southern Florida

Musical Traditions

Eddie Osborne with African American gut-bucket bass (Miami)

Musical instruments are fundamental to music making in most of Florida’s cultural communities. Instruments extend a community’s musical resources beyond those of the human body itself and shape its musical styles. While most musicians in Florida perform with factory-made instruments that are purchased in stores, some use instruments made by hand by local craftsmen. These instrument makers have detailed knowledge of the acoustic properties of natural materials, particularly woods and animal skins.

A variety of percussion instruments are constructed in Florida, many of which are used for ritual or festive occasions. Rattles made from kgourds, coconut shells and milk cans are employed in Seminole ceremonies. Central to the Afro-Cuban Orisha religion are double-headed batá drums, constructed from diverse woods and skins, and gourd shekerés. Vodou drums continue to be carved in Haiti but are often covered with skins in Miami. Similarly, clay shells and goatskins for tassa drums are purchased in Trinidad and later assembled in South Florida for use in Hindu weddings and festivals. Trinidadian steel pans are fabricated from discarded oil and chemical containers for performances ranging from the Miami Carnival to hotel concerts.

Also present in the state are makers of string and wind instruments. For years the fiddle has been a key instrument in country music traditions, while acoustic guitars are used by classicl, flamenco and other musicians. Shofarot are made from animal horns for Jewish holiday celebrations, tsabounas, a type of Greek bagpipe, are constructed in Tarpon Springs from goatskins.

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Florida Folklife Traditions Start
Maritime, Marsh and Ranching Domestic and Decorative
Ritual and Festive Musical
Historical Museum of Southern Florida

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