A chekeré (shekere) is a dried and hollowed gourd with a net of beads (seeds, shells, etc.) strung on the outside. Each gourd has its own pitch or sound based on its shape and size. It may be twisted, shaken or slapped to produce a subtle variety of effects; musically, it is much more flexible than maracas. It comes from West Africa and was brought to the new world via slavery. It is still a poplar instrument in afro-cuban music and religious ceremonies.
When I was in college, I was part of a Latin percussion ensemble that played a piece strictly for chekerés. Since each gourd has a tone when thumped, it was like playing in a hand bell choir. Each of us alone just sounded noisy, but when we all played our parts together there was a melody and a rhythm that turned out to be pretty cool.