Conga (drum)

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A pair of conga

The conga is a single-headed barrel drum that was developed in Cuba from predecessors of various African traditions and is particularly widespread in dance music. In the 21st century, the conga is widespread in Latin America and is used in Afro-Cuban jazz, Latin jazz, and other popular musical styles. In Cuba, the term tumbadora is often used for the conga in general or for a specific drum size , from which the term tumba for a larger conga is derived.


The barrel-shaped conga is a 70–90 cm high hand drum . The diameters are not standardized. The vertically positioned conga is covered with a batter head at the top and open at the bottom. It is traditionally made of wood in barrel construction, that is, from individual staves , modern versions also made of fiberglass . The skin diameter is slightly larger than the lower opening. The traditional covering consists of a thick animal skin, nowadays synthetic materials are also used. The skin is held in place by a hoop that is attached to the body of the drum by means of a screw connection. In this way, the instrument can be tuned relatively easily and efficiently by tightening or loosening the screws.


The word conga may come from the Bantu word nkónga , which means "navel" or "umbilical cord". The word originally referred to a rhythm from the Cuban street carnival and the corresponding parades, whereby similar instruments are used.

In many musical genres, several congas are used, which are then referred to with additional terms according to their role. In Salsa and related styles, the most highly tuned drum is called Requinto , followed by a quinto with a diameter of 28 cm, a conga with a diameter of 30 cm, a tumba with a diameter of 33 cm and the lowest-tuned supertumba . In the Afro-Cuban rumba usually three drums are used. These are called quinto (highest), tres dos or tres golpes (middle) and salidor (lowest).

Origin and Distribution

The Conga was introduced as a regular orchestral instrument in Latin America and the Caribbean. The conga is played with hands in popular dance music, and sometimes with sticks in traditional Cuban folk music. A forerunner of the conga in West Africa is the bougarabou , there are also similarities with the kpanlogo . Some drums had a religious meaning in West African cultures, were considered sacred and were played on special occasions and festivals. Various East and West African peoples, who were later deported to Latin America as slaves, worshiped three holy drums, which were called differently and were dedicated to certain gods.

In Latin American dance and jazz music, the conga is usually played in a set of 2, 3, 4 or 5. We find these setups today in modern ensembles as well as in pop music.

A famous conga player in pop music was Mickey Finn of T. Rex .

Style of play

In Cuban playing technique, the leading hand for right-handers is the right hand. The basic beats are: open beat ( open, abierto ); Bass ( bajo ); Slap, a whip-like blow, closed or open ( seco ); Tip ( tapado ), a barely audible touch with the fingertips and a muffled blow ( muffled ). When performing these strokes (except for the slap), the hand is always flat on the head, for the bass in the middle, for the other strokes with the transition from finger to palm on the edge of the conga. The closed slap is played with the fingertips, the hand slightly angled, the heels of the hands on the edge of the drum. The non-leading hand, in particular, often plays bobbing on the middle of the skin, which produces less loud sounds. The hands are moved from the palm to the fingertips and back (floating hand technique). The ball of the hand or the fingertips alternately touch the fur. In traditional Cuban folklore music, the conga is sometimes played with sticks. Typical rhythms are tumbao , bolero , and Afro-Cuban rumba .


Web links

Commons : Congas  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Olavo Alén Rodríguez: From Afrocuban Music to Salsa Piranha Records, Berlin 1998, p. 87
  2. ^ Nolan Warden: A History of the Conga Drum. In: Percussive Notes , February 2005, p. 9
  3. ^ Ned Sublette: Cuba and its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo. Chicago Review Press, Chicago 2004, p. 370