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caxirola

noun [countable]

a percussion instrument used by football fans which makes a rattling sound when shaken

'Thought you'd heard the last of monotonous drones blasting out from the terraces? Think again … Following the international sensation of questionable musical value that was the vuvuzela … the caxirola has been unveiled as the aural stimulant of choice at next year's tournament in Brazil.'

The Independent 25th April 2013

In the digital era, one indication that a word has firmly made its mark in the public consciousness is when it appears as an option in predictive texting, and whilst recently fumbling my way through a message on a smartphone touchpad, I was interested to come across the word vuvuzela. Four years ago nobody would have had a clue what a vuvuzela was, but its high profile and rather controversial image in the 2010 World Cup seems to have secured it a more enduring place in the language. Three years on, and as attentions turn to the next tournament in Brazil next year, it transpires that the Brazilians have responded to the South Africans by producing an instrument uniquely their own – the caxirola.

Brazilian promoters claim that the caxirola has been carefully designed to produce a sound which is considerably less grating and annoying than the trumpet-like blast of the vuvuzela, which caused so much controversy in the 2010 tournament

The caxirola (pronounced something like ka-she-'roll-ah) is a small percussion instrument with a shape and size akin to a hand grenade. Coloured, unsurprisingly, in green and yellow, it is made of recycled plastic, a deliberate move in line with Brazil's attempts to provide an eco-friendly world cup. The instrument contains synthetic pellets, and when shaken gives a rattling sound which is said to be not dissimilar to that made by a traditional South American 'rain stick'. Brazilian promoters claim that the caxirola has been carefully designed to produce a sound which is considerably less grating and annoying than the trumpet-like blast of the vuvuzela, which caused so much controversy in the 2010 tournament. If you'd like to get an idea what the caxirola sounds like, and compare the two, check out this short video.

As with the vuvuzela, reception of the caxirola has been mixed, but this time criticism isn't restricted to the sound it makes. The result of a collaboration between Brazilian musician Carlinhos Brown and the country's ministry of sports, the caxirola has been manufactured specifically for the upcoming tournament. Unlike the vuvuzela, which was based on a tribal horn and used by football fans for a number of years before the 2010 World Cup, the caxirola is a fabrication, a tool for commercialization and branding rather than something which connects, albeit loosely, with cultural heritage.

Another problem is the caxirola's similarity to a hand grenade, which sadly hasn't been confined to aesthetic appearance. In May 2013 it was announced that, for security reasons, the instrument would be banned at the Confederations Cup held in Brazil in June. The move followed an incident in late April, during which irate fans hurled dozens of caxirolas onto the pitch during a match between Bahia and Vitoria.

It seems then that the future of the caxirola is very much in the balance, and though it has followed the vuvuzela's footsteps in being declared 'the official instrument of the 2014 FIFA World Cup', it may not be permitted to form the soundtrack to the tournament to quite the same extent as its predecessor.

Background – caxirola

The caxirola is the creation of Carlinhos Brown, an award-winning musician, composer and vocalist from Salvador in the north-east of Brazil.

The instrument was based on the caxixi (pronounced ka-'shee-shee) a traditional South-American percussion instrument which consists of a small, sealed, flat-bottomed basket filled with seeds or other small pellets. Variations in sound from a caxixi can be made by changing the angle at which the instrument is shaken – if the seeds hit the sides of the basket, the sound is softer, but if they hit the rigid, flat bottom, a louder, sharper sound is made.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published on 17th June 2013.

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