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For some high-pitched drumming performance, the best choice is the Cuban favourite, Bongo drums. The single headed open-ended drums have become an essential part of Cuban music greatly influencing the styles known as Changui and Son.

The Bongos have been traditionally made of wood, but today a wide variety of other synthetic materials are also used. Ceramic bongos are used in the Middle East and parts of Asia, but if you have regularly played in the Caribbean belt then you most definitely would have encountered the wooden version. Popularised by the migrant slaves, this instrumental has since become an active part of Cuban folklore. Though there is still no agreement on the exact place of origin of the Bongo, African and Cuban music have made the use of the instrument in their traditional music.

This instrument is traditionally played by hand and held between the legs. This two part drum has a larger hembra and a smaller macho portion. If you develop a snappy wrist technique, you can get the crisp loud sound that you desire. As an experienced bongocero you can produce a wide variety of sounds by varying your hand techniques. Bongo players constantly improvise on their techniques but if you follow the Cuban style you would first start with the ‘martillo’ style.

The bongo is traditionally an instrument tuned to produce one-eighth notes; if you want to experiment you can tune the instrument to a 12-tone melodic scale. The more your stretch the hide the shriller the sound will get. For the perfect tuning in a diagonal pattern is advised. You must take care to de-tune the instrument each time to ensure that the drum heads do not stretch out too quickly.

The bongos have always enjoyed a huge wave of popularity since the 1940s up to the early sixties. In the 21st century bongos are mainly used in popular styles of Latin music. The most popular Bongo sounds hail from Cuba and have been the defining instrument in the mid-1800s for the Son style of music. You might have observed that today some bongoceros use stands and sticks to produce a variety of sounds. The high-pitched bongo has always worked best as a syncopated accompaniment although there have been several inspiring solo performances.

The sound of the Bongos has been adapted into every style and genre of music. It is an instrument that is enjoyed by musicians, music lovers, drumming enthusiasts and Beatnik poets alike.


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