Whether you are a fan of the Kerouac inspired Beat Generation of the mid-century, Salsa or other Latin-inspired music, or just like to have a fun instrument at your disposal for impromptu drum circles, the bongos may be one of the most versatile, well-known and loved drums of all times.
Bongos are a set of two drums, attached in the middle with a piece of wood, making them portable and one of the easier drums to learn to play. The ease of learning bongos does not take away the complexity of the rhythms and songs possible, however, especially when considering the prevalence of bongo beats in Latin and Central American music. The sound of the bongos is distinctive, giving flavor and zest to many different styles of music that originated in Central and South America including the Salsa, Mamba, Conga as well as in the music of bands like Gipsy Kings and artists like Arturo Sandoval.
The actual location in Africa from which bongos originated is unknown, which may be related to the secrecy of the Abakua religion, but it is believed that the drums were brought over to Cuba from Africa in the late 1800s. Changui and Son, popular styles of music in the Guantanamo province of Cuba in the late nineteenth century, may be the first types of music directly associated with bongos. From the Changui and Son, various modern Latin-inspired music has evolved, and with that evolution, the bongos have become a necessary instrument for more than Latin music. Many World Music bands and artists have incorporated bongo beats into songs, making the bongos a universal form of percussionist expression.
Whether for fun, for performance or for a cultural experience that transcends time and location, the bongos are an instrument with a rich history that has given life to many different genres of Latin and other World Music that is enjoyed today. For performers or hobbyist drummers, the bongos may allow a different level of self expression that has otherwise been missing from any performance, whether in a recording studio, on stage or during a drum circle.