FADER Explains: The Caxirola

Why Brazil’s World Cup instrument has been relegated to vuvuleza status and how it’s become a symbol of the troubled games.

June 12, 2014

Making a whooshing percussion sound that's both characteristic of bossa nova and reminiscent of Amazonian rainfall, the caxirola—Brazil’s 2014 World Cup instrument—was initially given the seal of approval by FIFA and Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff as the official celebratory accompaniment to the much buzzed about games. The caxirola (pronounced ka-shee-role-ah) has a rich history, stemming back to African folklore and early samba, but it sadly won’t be shaking up crowds at this year’s games as promised, since the maraca-like rattle has since been banned from all twelve of the stadiums. FADER explains why the innocent instrument has been relegated to vuvuzela status, how it's become a symbol of the troubled games, and what exactly a caxirola is.

Where does it come from?
Carlinhos Brown, the inventor of the caxirola, is a Brazilian musical icon who won an Academy Award for his compositions in the 2011 animated film Rio. In his conception of the instrument, which resembles an amalgamation of Brazil’s various tropical fruits plus finger slots, Brown drew inspiration from the classic caxixi, a woven seed-filled percussion instrument found across South America and Africa.

Is the caxirola as obnoxious as the vuvuzela?
According to a study conducted at Brazil's Federal University of Santa Maria, the sound of 30,000 caxirola’s is equivalent to the sound of one vuvuzela. Considering that Itaquerao stadium (where the first World Cup 2014 game was held) can fit 61,600 spectators, the collective noise level from the instruments wouldn’t have been any louder than the two vuvuzela-happy drunks at the sports bar you’re watching the games at.

Why won't we see any caxirolas at the games?
What was supposed to be a response to South Africa’s abrasive and dangerously loud vuvuzela turned into a weapon of its own in 2013 when disgruntled fans hurled caxirolas onto the Arena Fonte Nova soccer field in Sāo Paolo after their home team lost (ironically, also Carlinhos Brown’s home team), interrupting the game and threatening to fulfill the promise any coconut-shaped object has of bonking unlucky people on the head.

Why is the caxirola polarizing?
Billions of dollars are being spent on the games and construction of the stadiums, and even though the economy of Brazil has been on the rise, poverty is still a rampant issue in the country. It’s hardly a revelation that Brazil’s management of the World Cup has been fraught with corruption and condemned by protesters, and the surplus of now-banned, sugarcane-derived plastic caxirolas are a ready-made symbol of how the government’s lack of forethought is getting in-between Brazil’s culture of explosive celebration and the highly anticipated games.

Where can I get one?
Would-be shakers rejoice: although the caxirola won’t make it past the gates of the reportedly still-under-construction stadiums, those looking for a memento can turn to Walmart, duty-free airport shops, and local stands outside the games for caxirolas in the colors of their respective teams. There are also several apps, like Caxirola 2014, that remedy the ban with sound effects that approximate the real deal.

Posted: June 12, 2014
FADER Explains: The Caxirola