5 Fascinating Facts About Bongo Drums

Were you aware that a “bongosero” is the term used for a person who plays the bongo drums?

Bongo drums are a globally recognized instrument that you may have had the opportunity to play.

However, do you know their origins and why they are so popular?

Here are five fascinating facts about bongo drums.

Bongo drums were invented in Cuba.

Although the exact time and place of the bongo drum’s invention is unclear, records suggest it was invented in Cuba.

The Afro-Cuban percussion instrument was first documented in use in eastern Cuba during the late 19th century.

When slavery ended in Cuba in the 19th century, African and Latin drumming merged, forming many hybrid instruments, with the bongo drums being one of them.

The drums follow a traditional African design, and the playing technique was influenced by the Latin style of using hands.

In the early 1900s, the bongo drums were introduced to western Cuba and became an influential part of the music scene in places like Havana.

In the 1930s, as the jazz movement began to grow, the bongo drums became an important part of American Jazz.

Bongo drums always come in pairs.

Bongo drums are two circular drums attached together with a piece of wood. They are never sold separately, and one drum is always bigger than the other.

The “hembra” drum, meaning female, is larger than the “macho” drum, the male drum.

The two drums are always played together and never individually.

On average, most bongo drums have a diameter between 5.9-8.66 inches (15-22cm).

The drums are traditionally made of animal skin and oak wood.

The shell of the drum is traditionally made from oak wood, although many modern variations are made with other woods.

The skin of an animal, traditionally rawhide, is used to form the drum on one end of the wooden shell.

Some more modern drums use synthetic skin.

The other end of the drum is left open, which creates a booming echo when the stretched skin is tapped by the player.

A bongosero is the person who plays the bongo drums.

The bongosero is the player of the bongo drums.

When setting up, the drums are placed between the bongosero’s legs if they are sitting cross-legged, or on a stand if they are standing while playing.

Traditionally, the “hembra” drum, the larger of the two, is placed on the side of the bongosero’s dominant hand.

The bongosero traditionally could change the pitch of their drum by heating it to remove moisture, making the skin tighter, or by moistening the skin with water to make it looser.

Bongo drums are played with your hands.

Traditionally, only hands are used to play the bongo drums.

The player will use their fingertips, thumbs, and the heels of their hands to tap on the drums.

Using knuckles when playing bongo drums is not recommended because it can produce an undesirable sound and cause hand damage over time. The four basic hand strokes used are mute tone, open tone, slap tone, and heel-toe. While there are many standard rhythms for bongo drums, they are also traditionally used for solos, allowing for a diverse range of sounds and tones to be created between the two drums. Bongo drums are an important percussion instrument in many cultures and serve as the bass for music. If you have the opportunity to play bongo drums, give it a try and see if you can create some booming tunes.


1. What are bongo drums?

Bongo drums are a pair of small, open-bottomed drums that are played with the hands. They are typically made of wood, although sometimes synthetic materials are used. The drums are joined together by a wooden or metal bar, and are played by striking the heads with the fingers and palms of the hands.

2. Where did bongo drums originate?

Bongo drums are believed to have originated in Cuba in the late 19th century. They were created by African slaves who were brought to the island, and who adapted their traditional drumming styles to the new instruments they found there. Bongo drums quickly became popular in Cuba and other parts of Latin America, and eventually spread to the United States and other parts of the world.

3. What are some famous bongo players?

There have been many famous bongo players over the years. Some of the most well-known include Mongo Santamaria, who played with Dizzy Gillespie and Tito Puente, and Ray Barretto, who played with the Fania All-Stars. Other notable bongo players include Candido Camero, Willie Bobo, and Jack Costanzo.

4. What are some common bongo rhythms?

There are many different rhythms that can be played on bongo drums, but some of the most common include the martillo, which is a basic rhythm that alternates between the high and low drums; the tumbao, which is a rhythm used in Cuban music that emphasizes the second and fourth beats; and the mozambique, which is a rhythm from Africa that has been adapted to Latin American music.

5. How are bongo drums used in modern music?

Bongo drums are used in a wide variety of modern musical styles, including jazz, salsa, reggae, and rock. They are often used to add a percussive element to a song, and can be played as part of a larger percussion section or as a standalone instrument. In some cases, bongo drums are also used as a solo instrument, with a player using a variety of techniques to create complex rhythms and melodies.

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