Conga (music)

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This article is about the music ensemble and genre. Conga (music)_sentence_0

For other uses, see Conga (disambiguation). Conga (music)_sentence_1

Conga (music)_table_infobox_0

CongaConga (music)_header_cell_0_0_0
Stylistic originsConga (music)_header_cell_0_1_0 Congolese and West African traditionsConga (music)_cell_0_1_1
Cultural originsConga (music)_header_cell_0_2_0 Cuba, mid-19th centuryConga (music)_cell_0_2_1
Typical instrumentsConga (music)_header_cell_0_3_0 Corneta china, trumpet, trombone, bokú, bombo, conga drums, metallic idiophonesConga (music)_cell_0_3_1
Derivative formsConga (music)_header_cell_0_4_0 Ballroom congaConga (music)_cell_0_4_1
Regional scenesConga (music)_header_cell_0_5_0

The term conga refers to the music groups within Cuban comparsas and the music they play. Conga (music)_sentence_2

Comparsas are large ensembles of musicians, singers and dancers with a specific costume and choreography which perform in the street carnivals of Santiago de Cuba and Havana. Conga (music)_sentence_3

The instrumentation differs between congas santiagueras and congas habaneras. Conga (music)_sentence_4

Congas santiagueras include the corneta china (Chinese cornet), which is an adaptation of the Cantonese suona introduced in Oriente in 1915, and its percussion section comprises bocúes (similar to African ashiko drums), the quinto (highest pitched conga drum), galletas and the pilón, as well as brakes which are struck with metal sticks. Conga (music)_sentence_5

Congas habaneras lack the corneta china but include trumpets, trombones and saxophones, and they have a different set of percussion instruments: redoblantes (side drums), bombos (bass drums), quinto, tumbadora (the lowest pitched conga drum), and metallic idiophones such as cowbells, spoons, frying pans and rims. Conga (music)_sentence_6

Congas and comparsas have a long history which dates back to the 19th century, with musical traditions being passed down from one generation to the next. Conga (music)_sentence_7

The older comparsas are derived from cabildos de nación or other social groups, whereas the later ones, called paseos, are derived from barrios (neighbourhoods). Conga (music)_sentence_8

The music of the congas has become a genre itself, being introduced into Cuban popular music in the early 20th century by artists such as Eliseo Grenet and Armando Oréfiche and his Havana Cuban Boys. Conga (music)_sentence_9

They have been present for decades in the repertoire of many conjuntos, Cuban big bands and descarga ensembles, also having an influence on modern genres such as salsa and songo. Conga (music)_sentence_10

The conga drum, also known in Cuba as tumbadora, took its name from the congas de comparsa. Conga (music)_sentence_11

History Conga (music)_section_0

Origins Conga (music)_section_1

The history of the conga (also known as comparsa conga or conga de comparsa) is obscure and its origins remain largely unknown. Conga (music)_sentence_12

In the early 19th century, although the word "conga" is not found in written sources, there are references to "tumbas", and, according to Brea and Millet (1993:204), "tumba" refers to the percussion ensemble of the conga. Conga (music)_sentence_13

"Tumba" is mentioned in connection with mamarrachos (summer festivals in Santiago de Cuba) as early as 1847 (Pérez I 1988:54). Conga (music)_sentence_14

A word that may be synonymous with "tumba" is the word "tango", mentioned as early as 1856 (Pérez I 1988:79). Conga (music)_sentence_15

Unfortunately, most 19th-century writers were extremely negative towards Afro-Cuban culture and little information about the tumbas or tangos was recorded. Conga (music)_sentence_16

Relation to Kongo ethnic group Conga (music)_section_2

"Congo" was the word used to designate African slaves brought to Cuba from the Congo region of Africa (currently the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola). Conga (music)_sentence_17

According to the rules of Spanish grammar, "congo" became a masculine noun/adjective and its feminine counterpart was formed by changing final "o" to "a." Conga (music)_sentence_18

This Spanish noun/adjective pair has been used in Cuba to designate anything pertaining to the above-mentioned African slaves and their culture. Conga (music)_sentence_19

Therefore, some have assumed that "conga" was originally an adjective (as in the expression comparsa conga), and that the comparsa was dropped and conga changed to a noun (del Carmen et al. Conga (music)_sentence_20

2005). Conga (music)_sentence_21

However, the word conga may also derive from either "maconga" (song) or "nkunga" (song, sound) in "the language of the Congo" (Ortiz 1924:118). Conga (music)_sentence_22

Ortiz (II 1952-5:34) also states that the drum called bokú (one of the instruments of the conga) is "...typical of the congos." Conga (music)_sentence_23

Goodman mentions the “comparsa conga” in conjunction with a carnaval figure known as “el Rey del Congo” (the "King of the Congo”), which seems to confirm a kongo ethnic connection to the conga (Pérez I 1988:104). Conga (music)_sentence_24

Also, the word bokú means “drum” in Kikongo (Orovio 1981:58). Conga (music)_sentence_25

Antipathy after independence Conga (music)_section_3

In the early years after the establishment of the Republic of Cuba in 1902, there were numerous decrees by successive mayors of Santiago de Cuba banning "African drums and tangos". Conga (music)_sentence_26

(Pérez I 1988:177, etc.) Apparently, these decrees were not faithfully enforced: Conga (music)_sentence_27

According to Pérez, Conga (music)_sentence_28

Debate Conga (music)_section_4

Opponents to the conga in print outnumbered defenders. Conga (music)_sentence_29

The conga was a thing of the illiterate Afro-Cuban working people, while the writers of editorials and angry letters to the editor were upper-class Hispano-Cubans. Conga (music)_sentence_30

One prominent attacker of the conga, and perhaps the most florid in his prose, was the long-time mayor of Santiago, Desiderio Alberto Arnaz II (father of American TV star Desi Arnaz), who expressed the feelings of some upper-class Cubans in a newspaper article of 1925: Conga (music)_sentence_31

On the other hand, an opinion poll of 1936 on the conga elicited the following comments: Conga (music)_sentence_32

Conga of Los Hoyos Conga (music)_section_5

Los Hoyos is a district in downtown Santiago de Cuba and home to the conga of Los Hoyos. Conga (music)_sentence_33

The date of the founding of this conga is unknown, but it was already in existence in 1902 (del Carmen et al. Conga (music)_sentence_34

2005). Conga (music)_sentence_35

At first, the instruments of the group were a pilón, some bocúes, a cowbell and a güiro. Conga (music)_sentence_36

Later, two redoblantes were added, the number of bocúes was increased and the cowbell and güiro were replaced by frying pans. Conga (music)_sentence_37

Later still, the frying pans were replaced by the campanas (automobile brake drums or other pieces of metal chosen for their distinct sound qualities). Conga (music)_sentence_38

Also added were the quinto and the requinto. Conga (music)_sentence_39

Los Hoyos first began using a corneta china in 1916 (del Carmen et al. Conga (music)_sentence_40

2005), one year after the instrument was introduced by the conga Los Colombianos from Tívoli. Conga (music)_sentence_41

During the carnaval season, Los Hoyos performs a traditional event known as an "invasión," in which it marches around the streets of Santiago and visits the neighborhoods where the other famous congas are located. Conga (music)_sentence_42

This "invasión" commemorates the invasion of the Army of Liberation at the end of the War of Independence. Conga (music)_sentence_43

Los Hoyos also closes the traditional parades of the Carnaval of Santiago de Cuba (del Carmen et al. Conga (music)_sentence_44

2005). Conga (music)_sentence_45

Instrumentation Conga (music)_section_6

Walter Goodman (1838–1912), an Englishman who lived in Santiago de Cuba from 1864 to 1869, left what may be the earliest written description of the instruments of the conga: “… an odd orchestra composed of drums, frying pans, tin utensils, graters and güiros (Pérez I 1988:102)." Conga (music)_sentence_46

The present-day instruments fall into four categories. Conga (music)_sentence_47

First are the campanas (Brea and Millet 1993:181), which are instruments of metal struck with metal beaters. Conga (music)_sentence_48

Preferably, brake drums from older model American vehicles (1950s or older) are used. Conga (music)_sentence_49

Originally, before brake drums were available, frying pans were used (Pérez I 1988:310, Pérez II 1988:23, etc.) and possibly plow blades as well (Pérez I 1988:106 and 134). Conga (music)_sentence_50

The second category is the bocuses (sing. Conga (music)_sentence_51

bocú alt. Conga (music)_sentence_52

pl. bocúes), also called fondos ("bottoms"). Conga (music)_sentence_53

Nowadays, the skin is usually held on by a metal hardware system similar to that of the commercial conga drum. Conga (music)_sentence_54

Anywhere from four to 16 bocuses are used in one conga (Brea and Millet 1993:179). Conga (music)_sentence_55

The bocuses play simple interlocking parts with few variations (however, the sum of the parts results in quite a complex drum melody). Conga (music)_sentence_56

A smaller bocú, called a quinto or bocusito, plays complex off-beat figures and improvisations. Conga (music)_sentence_57

According to Ortiz, the bocú was adopted by the conga when African drums were banned in the early years of the Republic. Conga (music)_sentence_58

A third category are the bimembranophone tambores (Brea and Millet 1993:200), mentioned in documents as early as 1916 (Pérez I 1988:217) There are three tambores: one requinto and two galletas. Conga (music)_sentence_59

The requinto (Brea and Millet 1993:198), first mentioned in writing as early as 1931 (Pérez II 1988:9), is shaped somewhat like a snare drum- about 50% wider than it is tall. Conga (music)_sentence_60

It is hung from the left shoulder with the top of the drum slightly skewed to the left and is played with a stick on the right-hand skin while the left hand mutes or opens the left-hand skin. Conga (music)_sentence_61

Its part is simple with few variations. Conga (music)_sentence_62

The galletas (also called congas- Orovio 1981:186) are like bass drums, but flatter. Conga (music)_sentence_63

They are both played with a stick in a manner similar to the requinto, except that they are hung from the shoulders in such a way that the skins are nearly horizontal to the ground. Conga (music)_sentence_64

The higher pitched of the two is called a redoblante (Brea and Millet 1993:197). Conga (music)_sentence_65

It measures approximately 2 feet in diameter and 5 inches high. Conga (music)_sentence_66

In addition to its basic pattern, there are many floreos (variations) that it can play. Conga (music)_sentence_67

The lower-pitched galleta is called a pilón (Brea and Millet 1993:196) or pilonera (Ortíz II 1952-5:242). Conga (music)_sentence_68

It measure about 2 inches larger in each dimension than the redoblante. Conga (music)_sentence_69

This drum plays a basic pattern with few variations. Conga (music)_sentence_70

All three of the drums utilize a metal hardware system for attaching the skins to the drum shells. Conga (music)_sentence_71

As with the bocú, Ortiz asserts that the tambores were not originally used in the pre-Republican congas. Conga (music)_sentence_72

“One is soon aware that these congas [galletas], like the drums of the comparsa carabalí, are ‘white’ imitations of drums whose African morphology has been disguised” (Ortíz II 1952-5:242). Conga (music)_sentence_73

The final category includes only one item: the trompetica china or corneta china (literally “Chinese trumpet/bugle”). Conga (music)_sentence_74

This double reed instrument, called suona in Chinese, was brought to Havana in the 19th century by Chinese immigrants. Conga (music)_sentence_75

It was being used to play traditional Chinese music in the Chinese theaters in Havana's Chinatown, when an Afro-Cuban comparsa named “Los Chinos Buenos” adapted it to use in place of an inspirador ("lead singer"). Conga (music)_sentence_76

Although it was very difficult for anyone not standing within ten feet of the inspirador to hear him or her singing during a street performance, the trompetica china, due to its peculiar raucous and nasal sound, could usually be heard by the entire comparsa and its followers. Conga (music)_sentence_77

In 1910, the trompetica china was brought to Santiago de Cuba by soldiers of the Cuban army (Ortíz II 1952-5:451). Conga (music)_sentence_78

The first conga to incorporate its use was Paso Franco in 1915 (del Carmen et al. Conga (music)_sentence_79

2005). Conga (music)_sentence_80

By 1924, it was a well-established feature of the conga (Pérez; I 1988:310). Conga (music)_sentence_81

Today, the sound of this instrument is recognized by Cubans as the symbol of the carnavales of Oriente. Conga (music)_sentence_82

Dance Conga (music)_section_7

The conga is danced with small sliding steps, advancing alternately. Conga (music)_sentence_83

Imagining two measures of 4 time (the traditional time signature for the conga), if the right foot starts on the first eighth note of the first measure, then the left foot steps on the third eighth note of the first measure, the right again on the first eighth note of the second measure, the left on the third eighth note of the second measure, and so on. Conga (music)_sentence_84

This basic step is called the "arrollao." Conga (music)_sentence_85

The arms are bent at the elbow and swung opposite to the rhythm of the feet (Fernández 1974:91). Conga (music)_sentence_86

There are many variations on the basic step, as well as simple figures such as "kick," "single turn," "cutting sugar cane," "shining shoes," etc. Conga (music)_sentence_87

A common variation on the above variation is to eliminate the tie. Conga (music)_sentence_88

Selected discography Conga (music)_section_8

Conga (music)_unordered_list_0

  • Carnaval à Santiago de Cuba; Le Chant du Monde LDX-A-4250Conga (music)_item_0_0
  • - this page has samples of different styles of carnaval music, including conga.Conga (music)_item_0_1
  • Santiago: Calles y Congas; Egrem C557 (1996)Conga (music)_item_0_2

See also Conga (music)_section_9

Conga (music)_unordered_list_1


Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conga (music).