All You Need to Know About the Cajon Box Drum

All You Need to Know About the Cajon Box Drum
All You Need to Know About the Cajon Box Drum

There’s been a marked increase in the interest for box drums recently. You’ll hear and see them all over the place in all types of music from jazz to flamenco, fusion, bluegrass, hip-hop, rock, and pop. A percussionist has also been featured on the American Idol house band who occasionally brings the Cajon box drum downstage to go along with an acoustic unplugged performance.

So, what exactly is a box drum?

Box drums, also commonly referred to by the Spanish name, cajón – which is pronounced ka-hone – are really very old. They were introduced by African slaves living in the coastal areas of Peru in the 1700’s. One theory making the rounds is that these instruments were created from shipping boxes and crates that were being offloaded from ships, basically because the Spanish overlords banned them from owning any musical instruments. As a result, slaves sat on boxes and made beats, and that led to the invention of a new drum.

The literal translation of the word “cajón” in Spanish is “drawer”. And there’s another theory that says an innovative musician brought out his wooden drawer and started making beats on the lean wooden bottom surface. Whatsoever the true story may be, the Cajon box drum has been part of Peruvian folk music for hundreds of years.

What you’ve read above is just the surface of it all. But did you know that there’s an even more interesting history behind the Cajon Box Drum? Here are some quick facts about it.

  • The early cajon box drum was sometimes made out of shipping cartons that were brought over by the Spanish ships during the Spanish colonial America. The small-sized dresser drawers were then converted into musical instruments if they could ever get their hands on one.

  • The cajon box drum is widely accepted as a percussion instrument. It is generally about 12 inches deep and wide and a height of 18 inches.

  • The five sides of this cajon drum are generally made out of thicker wood compared to its front side, where the trigger of the sound is by slapping it with the hands of the musician. Because it produces sound easily with just a light slap of the hand, the front side is thinner and is alluded to as the head.

  • The cajon box drums of today are sometimes made out of rubber with screws at the top in order to allow adjustments with the sound produced by it.

  • The sound of the bass drum is gained by hitting at the front or head’s center. The higher tone is achieved through striking the box drum closer to head’s top surface.

  • At the time the musician sits on the cajon box drum, they tilt their position while they play. Some of them slap the other surfaces if they need to as they want to achieve different sounds aside from hitting the usual area where the cajon box drum is known for.

  • The Cajon box drum is a very popular musical instrument in the Americas, Spain and the Philippines.

  • It is a popular instrument that it is even incorporated and used in varying music styles including Tondero, Zamacueca, Peruvian Waltz and Flamenco.

  • In the music of today, the cajon box drum is usually used as an addition or accompaniment to the acoustic guitar. It is also used in replacing the full drum set when space is not in favor of the music players.

  • Cajon may seem like a light version of the drum set, but they are now incorporated in different music types like blues, jazz, pop, rock and funk.

  • You can even find cajon box drums used in Irish music.

  • Cajon is known widely for using the hands in making sounds with the instrument. However, there are other striking tools you can use such as metal brushes, sticks, mallets, plastic brushes and even drum pedals – the ones that are used for the bass drum.

  • Cajon drums can also be used as part of classical orchestra music.

  • Famous cajon box drums players are Ruben Dantas, Mario Cortes, Mike Meadows, Stephen Paass, and Nina Rodriguez.

  • The cajon box drum was declared as a National Heritage in the year 2001 by the Peruvian National Institute of Culture.

You will find more facts as you dig deep enough about your interest with the cajon box drums.