Bongo Drum Facts

Bongo Drum Facts
Bongo drums are a musical instrument in the percussion family that are believed to have originated from both the African and Cuban cultures. Bongo drums are a pair of drums attached together and played together. The larger drum is referred to as the hembra (female) in Spanish and it is attached to the smaller drum referred to as the macho (male) in Spanish. The general idea is that the bongo drums are Cuban in their invention but African in their concept because of their design influences. Bongo drumming appears to have become popular in the late 1800s in Cuba in the music styles called Son and Changui.
Interesting Bongo Drum Facts:
The bongo drums are believed to have originated in Cuba's eastern region in the Oriente Province in the late 1800s. In the 1900s the bongo drum found its way to Cuba's western region, in Havana, with Son style music.
Bongo drums have an open bottom - similar to the Bantu or Congo drums from central Africa - which is the reason why bongos are believed to have been influenced by African drum design.
The size of bongo drum heads can vary but are usually between 6 and 7 inches to between 7 and 8.5 inches.
The drum heads of bongos made for children are usually between 5 and 6 inches.
When playing the bongos the drummer usually holds them positioned between their legs. The position of the bongos depends on player preference but the technique of striking the bongos is the same in that the drummer strikes with their finger pads, thumbs, and heels of the hand, but never their knuckles.
Bongos must be maintained with drum oils that keep the skin of the drum from drying out and cracking. This cracking can occur because air can dry out the skin and hands can absorb the oils which robs the drum skin of moisture.
Most bongos are made of wood, with drum skins made of either animal skin or plastic. The body is sometimes made of ceramic or metal instead of wood.
Sometimes bongos are mounted on a stand and struck with drum sticks instead of hands.
The bongo drum is made up of several parts including the drum skin, shell, lugs, tuning ring, bearing edge, and center block or bridge.
Tuning of the bongo drum skins was commonly done by using heat but in the 1940s the tuning lugs were added to the bongo design which made it possible to tune the instrument without heat.
Bongo drums are the world's most common hand drum thanks to the popularity of Cuban big band music that gained international attention when it was introduced.
Musicians who play bongo drums are referred to as bongoseros.
Famous bongoseros that helped to bring the bongos to international attention include Augustin Gutierrez, Antolin Suarez, Pedro mena, Jose Manuel Carriera Incharte, Romanocito Castro, Armando Peraza, Chino Pozo, and Ralph Marzan, among many others.
James Dean and Marlon Brando, both Hollywood legends, learned to play the bongos from Jack Costanzo, a master bongosero and teacher.


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