Bongo drums are a type of percussion instrument consisting of a pair of drums of different sizes. Bongos are the most widespread Cuban hand drums. The larger drum is called ‘Hembra’ (Spanish for female) and the smaller drum is called ‘Macho’ (Spanish for male). Drumheads usually are made of animal skins, but also thin plastic is occasionally used. The body of the drum is made of wood, metal or ceramic. Musicians who play live gigs, usually use a stand for the instrument. Bongos are held between the legs, with the macho drum put against one thigh and the hembra against the opposite calf.
Different notes can be produced by striking the head of the instrument, using fingertips, your thumbs and the heels of your hands. The best advantage of a bongo drums is that they are very cheap and portable. There are simple versions of bongos that do not have a drumhead that can be tuned and stretched to produce different notes. The latest versions have adjustable heads.
The history of bongo drums can be traced to the Cuban music style known as Changui and Son. Initially, these instruments had heads that were tuned with a heat source. During the 1940s, the tuning process was facilitated by the development of metal tuning lugs.
Bongos are commonly played in music genres such as Afro Cuban jazz, salsa and Cuban son.
These instruments are used especially in world music which uses a lot of percussion instruments. The musician Ricky Martin always uses bongos in his music.
Famous bongo drummers, known as bongoseros, are Augustin Gutierrez, Papa Gofio, Antolin Suarez, Ramoncito Castro and Pedro Mena.
At Varsity music we provide a great range of new and used bongos available to buy online. They are the best on the market and serviced by our trained musicians.
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