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Cajons

Originally from Peru, the cajon is a box-shaped percussion instrument played in all ranges of musical styles, from jazz to flamenco and Afro beat. It's popular across Latin America, including in Cuban rumba and Mexican folk music, and performs a similar rhythm function to African djembes and other world drums. While the cajon reached the height of its popularity in the mid-19th century, it has seen a huge resurgence in recent years due to its practicality. Today, cajons are made not only by traditional craftspeople, but also leading instrument manufacturers.

Wooden Design

The cajon is traditionally made with sheets of wood on all sides of the box, with the side that acts as the striking surface, or "tapa," featuring a thinner sheet of wood. A hole is cut on the back side to release the sound and the player sits astride the box with it tilted at an angle. In addition to playing the "tapa," many performers also utilise the other sides of the cajon to create different sounds and timbres.

Modern Variations

Modern cajons include stretched cords pressed against the top of the instrument to create a buzzing tone, as well as screws at the top to adjust the percussive timbre. Some percussionists also attach a bass drum pedal to the cajon and use it as part of a larger percussive setup.

Size and Quality

Cajons come in a whole range of different sizes, including mini travelling versions and classic box-like shapes that can be sat astride. Prices vary largely depending on the quality of the wood used and the reputability of the brand behind the instrument.

Slave Roots

The cajon is believed to have been brought to the Americas by West and Central African slaves, and is similar to boxlike musical instruments found in that region today. Some theories say they were converted from Spanish shipping crates, while others believe they were favoured for being easily distinguishable as stools during a period when African music was banned by the colonial authorities.

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