A little Conga background or Do the Conga!
The conga is a tall, narrow, single-headed Cuban drum with an African history . 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.
The 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.
There are five basic strokes:
- Open tone: played with the four fingers near the rim of the head, producing a clear resonant tone with a distinct pitch.
- Muffled tone: like the open tone, is made by striking the drum with the four fingers, but holding the fingers against the head to muffle the tone
- Bass tone: played with the full palm on the head. It produces a low muted sound.
- Slap: the most difficult technique producing a loud clear “popping” sound (when played at fast and short intervals is called floreo, played to instill emotion in the dancer).
- Touch: 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 combine a touch of the palm with a touch of the fingers in a maneuver called heel-toe, which can be used to produce the conga equivalent of drumrolls.
Afro-Cuban and Puerto Rican
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.
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 religions. 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 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.it was an important thing to know
There are many other kinds of rhythms for the conga. It is constantly applied in new genres of music, therefore taking up the rhythms of that specific style, such as punta, reggaeton, Brazilian forms such as samba and bossa nova, and even reggae, funk, go-go, and country music.