From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The conga is a tall, narrow, single-headed Cuban drum with African antecedents. It is thought to be derived from the Makuta drums or similar drums associated with Afro-Cubans of Central African descent. A person who plays conga is called a "conguero". Although ultimately derived from African drums made from hollowed logs, the Cuban conga is staved, like a barrel. These drums were probably made from salvaged barrels originally. They are used both in Afro-Caribbean religious music and as the principal instrument in Rumba. Congas are now very common in Latin music, including salsa music, merengue music, Reggaeton, as well as many other forms of American popular music.
Most modern congas have a staved wooden or fiberglass shell, and a screw-tensioned drumhead. They are usually played in sets of two to four with the fingers and palms of the hand. Typical congas stand approximately 75 cm from the bottom of the shell to the head. The drums may be played while seated. Alternatively, the drums may be mounted on a rack or stand to permit the player to play while standing.
There are various rhythms for the conga, the most well-known being the marcha.This rhythm is commonly played on 1 to 3 congas, but has no true limit for the amount used. The marcha is the most common rhythm in Salsa/Son. Some songs that include the marcha or slight variations (Guajira)(chachacha) of the rhythm are:
- Oye Como Va by Tito Puente
- Pedro Navaja by Willie Colón and Rubén Blades
- Se Le Ve by Andy Montañez and Daddy Yankee
- Watermelon Man by Mongo Santamaría
- Los Dos Jueyes by Domingo Quiñones and Zion
- Amor Verdandero and A Maria Le Gusta by Afro Cuban All Stars
- Quizas, Quizas, Quizas by Omara Portuondo and Teresa Garcia Cartula
- Armonias del Romañe by Tomatito
- Soy Guanaco Salvadoreño by Bobby Rivas
- Hoy tenemos by Sidestepper
- Ahora Vengo Yo by Anthonious Meer, Richie Ray & Bobby Cruz
- Hipocrecía by Fruko y sus Tesos
- Escucha el Rithmo by Spanish Harlem Orchestra
- Me Voy Pa Cali by Oscar D'León
- Boogaloo Chevere by Sonora Carruseles
- Virus by Bamboleo
- Oye Baila Mi Onda by Orquesta Aragón
- El Barrio del Pilar by Orquesta Broadway
- Bodas de Oro by Cheo Belen Puig
Countless other songs use this rhythm.
There is also the bolero rhythm, which goes 1-2-3 1-2 1-2-3. Being very similar to the marcha, it involves a minimum of two congas and can be heard on:
- Buena Vista Social Club by Buena Vista Social Club
- Melodia del Rio by Ruben González
- Besame Mucho by Andrea Bocelli
- La Puerta by Luis Miguel
More complex rhythms can be heard in the music of Santería and Abakua rituals, many of which also apply to the bata drums, such as Guarapachangueo and Chacha-lokafun. In Cuba, variants of Guaguanco, Bembe, and Abakua change from province to province, so there is no true stating to what is or isn't correct.
The merengue rhythm, used in orchestral merengue, goes 1 2-1-2. It can also be heard as 1-2-1-2 1-2-1-2-1-2. Essentially, it is the rhythm of the tambora applied to conga. This can be heard on Elvis Crespo's Suavemente and Grupo Mania's Me Miras y Te Miro. Originally, this rhythm was derived from the trap drumming of African slaves from various animist religionsTemplate:Citation needed. In merengue tipico the rhythm is usually more complex and less standardized; it can range from simply hitting the conga on a fourth beat to playing full patterns that mark the time.
The rhythm of Palos is also representative of what we can call Afro-Dominican music. The drums are made out of hollowed-out tree trunks, and they are used both for secular and religious music in Santo Domingo and Haiti. The drums are called palos (alcahuete, palo mayor and adulon); the balsie is another drum which is played with both the feet and the hands; the player sits on it and uses a friction technique called 'arrugao'. Panderos are also used in Dominican folk music, like Congos, Salve and Palos. The Dominican version of the 'clave' is 'la canoita', which are two sticks which are struck against each other, and one of them has a handle. In the Gaga they also use palo drums and in the rhythm called Palo de Muerto, which is played when a member of the cofradia or brotherhood dies. The rhythm of palos is played throughout the Dominican Republic and is the national dance of the country. This music was suppressed and persecuted during Trujillo's rule due to social and racial discrimination.
The cumbia rhythm, simple and slowly played, goes 1-2-2-1, also heard as 1-2-1-2. It can be heard in Fito Olivares's Mosaico Fiestero and La Cumbia Sampuesana y La Cumbia Cienaguera by Ancieto Molino y Los Sabaneros.