Tiny Time Saver – Firikyiwa African Bell Instrument
The Firikyiwa is a percussion instrument from African and is my newest favorite toy/tiny time saver in the music room. I saw my friend Sarah Lillie use this years ago with her classes and I’ve ALWAYS wanted one. This year on the requisition cycle I decided that I should spend the money and finally buy one. It’s only $16.95 from West Music., and it’s totally worth it. Let me tell you a little more about it… and then you can rush off and put in a purchase order. Seriously, this little instrument is awesome!
The Firikyiwa is an instrument from Ghana that is often called a “thumb bell” or an “African Castanet.” It’s a wonderful little instrument comes in two pieces, one larger open piece and one piece that looks like an iron ring. The larger piece hooks on your middle or index finger and then rests on your other fingers and the ring goes on your thumb. It works like a castanet in that you click the ring piece down onto the larger metal piece to make a clicking sound. It definitely doesn’t sound like a bell to me, but does make a clear and loud clanging sound. It cuts through any sort of noise or music that’s going on. It’s easy to hear, nonpitched, and not too distracting.
There are a lot of ways to use the Firikyiwa but here are the ways that I’ve found to use it in the last week or so that I’ve had it. First I used it as an echo leader when classes first come into the class. Only one hand is used to hold the instrument so your other hand is free to move papers, grab your iPod, or do whatever you might need to do at the beginning of class. You click, the kids clap back. Easy! I’ve also used it when working with a class where one group is singing and another group is playing the Orff instruments. I can click the Firikyiwa to keep the Orffy kids playing the bordun to the correct rhythm while I move and sing with the others. Kids across the room can easily hear me click which helps them get back on the right beat even as I move and dance with other students. It’s great, GREAT for that! I’ve also used it with my younger kiddos to keep them from speeding up during an unaccompanied song. We were passing beanbags around the circle to an easy Do-Mi-So song and this helped keep them on the stead beat.
Here’s a great description I found on MotherLandMusic.com: Toney, hollow, and penetrating sound considering the small size of this metal…castanet? clave? bell!? It has a sound that holds its own throughout the drum ensemble. Like most West African bells, these are made from salvaged scrap metal selected for good sound qualities. It is a two part instrument including the bell pod, which slips over the first or middle finger, and a metal thumb striker. We are not sure the exact origin of this instrument but it is common throughout Ghana. Also called dodonpo, variations can be found in neighboring countries.