Instruments #12: Cajon

“The Cajon is an instrument with a rich and somewhat dark history. The word Cajon literally means box (Caja) or drawer (Cajon) in Spanish. Legend has it that 18th Century African slaves in Peru created the first Cajon. These slaves brought with them their rich drum and percussion tradition. Unfortunately, the Spanish colonial government were afraid that musical gatherings could be hotbeds for unrest.

In a move to curtail such social events, slave owners and police imposed a ban on traditional African drum music. The people’s spirit however, would not be so easily dampened and a deeply ingrained rhythm in their culture prevailed. Repurposed packing boxes left behind from the day’s work became the percussion instrument of choice. These boxes were easy to disguise as a seat or stool should the local constabulary happen past.

Today, buskers on the street, as well as bands in venues of all sizes, use the Cajon. The instrument has an earthy tone that provides a solid accompaniment for guitarists and singers. They are easy to transport and reliable, especially in acoustic sets where no power is available making them one of the most popular instruments used today.”


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