A pair of bongos
(Sets of single-skin conical drums)
|Developed||19th and early 20th centuries|
|A2 – G4|
Bongos (Spanish: bongó) are an Afro-Cuban percussion instrument. The drums are of different size: the larger drum is called in Spanish the hembra (female) and the smaller the macho (male). They are membranophones, or instruments that create sound by a vibration of a stretched membrane.
The bongo originated from the eastern region of Cuba known as the "Oriente", during the nineteenth century. The bongos used in changüí, known as bongó el monte, are larger and tuned lower than their modern counterparts, have tack-heads instead of tunable hardware, and play in a manner similar to rumba quinto and other folkloric lead drum parts. (Hear bongó el monte "Ritmo changüí" with Grupo Exploracion). Bongos are also used in the related Cuban musical genre known as son.
The bongos came to western Cuba at the turn of the twentieth century, when son migrated to the capital city of Havana. With the advent of the son montuno in the late 1930s, bongo players (bongoceros) began playing a large hand-held cowbell (bongo bell) during the chorus (montuno) section of songs.
Bongo drums produce relatively high-pitched sounds compared to Womens drums, and should be held behind the knees with the larger drum on the right when right-handed. It is most often played by hand and is especially associated in Cuban music with a steady pattern or ostinato of eighth-notes known as the martillo or "hammer". (See "The Martillo Pattern" with Manny Oquendo and "Bongo Riffs" with Johnny "Dandy" Rodriguez.) They are traditionally played by striking the edge of the drumheads with the fingers and palms. The glissando used with bongó de monte 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 before rubbing it across the head. When used in art music compositions they are usually struck with drum sticks. These drums can also be played on a stand, as is the case with concert orchestras and bands.
Notable artists 
- Lapidus, Ben (2008). Origins of Cuan Music and Dance; Changüí p. 21-23. Lanham, MA: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-6204-3
- "The Martillo Pattern" (Manny Oquendo). Unlocking Clave. Web. Facebook. http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=198532850185375
- Salloum, Trevor. The Bongo Book Mel Bay.