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  • Many modern musical instruments are cumbersome or have a lot of parts.

  • Some need a stand or a stool.

  • But the cajon is a drum, a stand and a seat all in one convenient box.

  • And this simplicity may be key to its journey across continents and cultures

  • to become one of the most popular percussion instruments in the world today.

  • The cajon's story begins in West Africa,

  • whose indigenous people had rich musical traditions

  • centered on drumming and dancing.

  • When many of them were captured and brought to the Americas as slaves,

  • they brought this culture with them,

  • but without their native instruments, they had to improvise.

  • African slaves in coastal Peru didn't have the materials

  • or the opportunity to craft one of their traditional drums

  • such as a djembe or a djun djun.

  • But what they did have were plenty of shipping crates.

  • Not only were these readily accessible,

  • but their inconspicuous appearance

  • may have helped get around laws prohibiting slaves from playing music.

  • Early Peruvian cajons consisted of a simple box

  • with five thick wooden sides.

  • The sixth side, made of a thinner sheet of wood,

  • would be used as the striking surface,

  • or more commonly known as the tapa.

  • A sound hole was also cut into the back to allow the sound to escape.

  • As an Afro-Peruvian culture developed,

  • and new forms of music and dance, such as Zamacueca,

  • Festejo and Landó were born,

  • the cajon became a dedicated musical instrument in its own right.

  • Early modifications involved simply bending the planks of the box

  • to tweak the sound,

  • and when abolition of slavery introduced the cajon to a broader population,

  • more improvisation and experimentation soon followed.

  • Perhaps the person most responsible for introducing the cajon

  • to European audiences was Spanish Flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucía.

  • When touring in Peru in 1977,

  • he and his percussionist Rubem Dantas

  • discovered the cajon and brought it back to Spain,

  • recognizing its potential for use in Flamenco music.

  • By stretching guitar strings along the inside of the tapa,

  • the flamenco musicians were able to create a buzz-like snare sound.

  • Combined with the regular bass tone,

  • this gave the cajon a sound close to a basic drum set.

  • The cajon quickly caught on,

  • not only becoming standard in Flamenco,

  • but being used in genres like folk, jazz, blues and rock.

  • Today, many specialized cajons are manufactured,

  • some with adjustable strings,

  • some with multiple playing surfaces,

  • and some with a snare mechanism.

  • But the basic concept remains the same,

  • and the story of the cajon shows

  • that the simplest things can have the most amazing potential

  • when you think outside and inside the box.

Many modern musical instruments are cumbersome or have a lot of parts.

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B1 US TED-Ed flamenco drum snare musical peruvian

【TED-Ed】Rhythm in a box: The story of the cajon drum - Paul Jennings

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    稲葉白兎 posted on 2015/03/07
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