For the music genre and ensemble, see Conga (music).
For other uses, see Conga (disambiguation).
(Directly struck membranophones in which the end without a membrane is open)
|Developed||Late 19th century or early 20th century in Cuba|
The conga, also known as tumbadora, is a tall, narrow, single-headed drum from Cuba.
Following numerous innovations in conga drumming and construction during the mid-20th century, as well as its internationalization, it became increasingly common for drummers to play two or three drums.
Although the exact origins of the conga drum are unknown, researchers agree that it was developed by Cuban people of African descent during the late 19th century or early 20th century.
In Cuba and Latin America, congas are primarily played as hand drums.
Most modern congas have a staved wooden or fiberglass shell and a screw-tensioned drumhead.
The drums are played with the fingers and palms of the hand.
Typical congas stand approximately 75 centimetres (30 in) 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.
While they originated in Cuba, their incorporation into the popular and folk music of other countries has resulted in diversification of terminology for the instruments and the players.
In Cuba, congas are called tumbadoras.
Conga players are called congueros, while rumberos refers to those who dance following the path of the players.
The term "conga" was popularized in the 1930s, when Latin music swept the United States.
In that same period, the popularity of the Conga Line helped to spread this new term.
Desi Arnaz also played a role in the popularization of conga drums.
However, the drum he played (which everyone called a conga drum at the time) was similar to the type of drum known as bokú used in his hometown, Santiago de Cuba.
The word conga came from the rhythm la conga used during carnaval (carnival) in Cuba.
The drums used in carnaval could have been referred to as tambores de conga since they played the rhythm la conga, and thus translated into English as conga drums.
Types of drum
Conga drums are classified according to their size, which correlates to their pitch: larger drumheads have a lower pitch and vice versa.
Originally, drums were tuned by adjusting knots and tension ropes on the drumhead, or, more commonly, where the drum-heads were tacked or nailed to the top of the shell, by careful heating of the head.
Modern congas, developed in the early 1950s, use a screw-and-lug tension head system, which makes them easier to tune (or detune).
Historically, terminology for the drums varies between genres and countries.
The drums are listed from largest to smallest (drumhead sizes vary considerably by manufacturer, model, and style):
- The supertumba or rebajador can be as large as 14 inches across (35.5 cm).
- The tumba or salidor is typically 12 to 12.5 inches across (30.5 to 31.8 cm).
- The conga or tres dos is typically 11.5 to 12 inches across (29.2 to 30.5 cm).
- The quinto is typically around 11 inches across (about 28 cm).
- The requinto can be smaller than 10 inches across (24.8 cm).
- The ricardo can be as small as 9 inches across (22.9 cm). Since this drum is typically played while hanging from a shoulder strap, it is considerably shorter and narrower than a traditional conga.
In conjuntos that play son cubano, as well as in charangas and other ensembles where one or two congas were introduced to complement other rhythmic instruments, the drums are named like the bongos: macho (male) and hembra (female), for the higher and lower-pitched drums, respectively; an additional drum would be called tercera (third).
These correspond to the tumba and conga in rumba ensembles.
When the quinto is played by conjuntos it retains its name.
There are four basic strokes in conga drumming:
- Open tone (tono abierto): played with the four fingers near the rim of the head, producing a clear resonant sound with a higher pitch than muffled and bass tones.
- Muffled, muted, closed of flesh tone (tono ahogado or apagado) or simply "muff": like the open tone, it is made by striking the drum with the four fingers, but holding the fingers against the head to muffle the tone. It can also be played with a cupped hand or the heel of the hand.
- Bass tone (tono bajo): played with the full palm, in a slightly cupped position, somewhat off center on the head. It produces a low muted sound.
- Slap tone (tono seco or tapado): the most difficult technique, producing a loud clear "popping" sound. The muted or pressed slap tone (toque tapado normal) involves playing an open tone while the other hand rests on the drumhead, which produces a higher pitch. There are open (tono tapado abierto) and half-open (tono tapado semi-abierto) variants, in which the playing hand briefly rests on the edge of the drumhead after the stroke, followed by another stroke with the other hand. When played at fast and short intervals, this is called floreo, which is often used to instill emotion in the dancers.
Other strokes can be used to enhance the timbral palette of the instrument.
They are not used by all drummers, but have become the hallmark of congeros such as Tata Güines.
- Touch or toe tone (toque de punta): as implied by the name, this tone is produced by just touching the fingers or heel of the palm to the drum head. It is possible to alternate a touch of the palm with a touch of the fingers in a maneuver called heel-toe (manoteo), which can be used to produce the conga equivalent of drumrolls.
- Nails stroke (toque de uñas): played with the tip of the nails, usually finger by finger in quick succession, starting with the pinky.
Glissando and pitch bending
The deslizado, moose call or glissando is done by rubbing the third finger, supported by the thumb, across the head of the drum.
The finger is sometimes moistened with saliva or sweat, and sometimes a little coat of beeswax is put on the surface of the conga head to help make the sound.
The moose call is also done on the bongos.
To bend the pitch of the congas, a conguero sometimes uses his elbow to shift around on and apply pressure to different parts of the head; this causes the note to change.
This is not a traditional stroke, but it is common in modern salsa and rumba.
Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conga.