Conga drum [conga] (Sp. tumbadora)
- Nolan Warden
[conga] (Sp. tumbadora)
Barrel-shaped Afro-Cuban drum usually played with the hands, around 30″ tall with a head diameter commonly 11 to 12.5″. Manufacturers often use the terms quinto, conga, and tumba for head diameters (small to large, respectively), although the terms were not historically used for that purpose. Until the mid-20th century, congas had mule or cowhide heads tacked to the shell. By the 1950s, metal screw-tension tuning systems began to predominate. At the same time in the United States, manufacturers started making fiberglass congas. By the end of the 20th century, it was common to mass-produce congas in Asia for American markets, leading to decreased cost and increased availability. In the 1990s, synthetic heads that approximated the sound of animal skin were developed in the United States, though most congas are still made of wood staves and animal hides.
Congas emerged in Afro-Cuban folkloric percussion music, each performer playing one drum with interlocking parts. In the 1940s, congas were integrated into popular music groups by Arsenio Rodríguez in Havana and “Machito” (Frank Grillo) in New York City. Soon after, it became standard for one person to play multiple drums simultaneously. By the 21st century, congas had become standard in much Latin American music but also common in rock, funk, R&B, jazz, and other genres. Famous conga-playing bandleaders include Francisco Aguabella, Ray Barretto, Candido Camero, Chano Pozo, Poncho Sanchez, and Mongo Santamaría....