- Conga sets are composed of a high, middle and low-pitched drum.traditional drum image by bayu harsa from Fotolia.com
Traditional Cuban music is heavily percussive---and has remained so even after being melded with jazz and paired with pianos and horn sections to become salsa in the 1960s. The percussion instruments used in Cuban music are simple in design, frequently consisting of hollowed-out gourds that are scraped or shaken to produce sound. Interestingly, a number of the percussive instruments now considered to be traditional Latin instruments are actually African in origin.
- The conga drum is of African origin and is a descendant of the Congolese makuta drums. Conga sets are traditionally comprised of three drums: the high-pitched quinto drum, the middle-pitched segundo drum and the low-pitched tumbadora drum. The drums are played with both hands and variations in tone are achieved by hitting different areas of the drum head with either the palm of the hand or the fingertips.
- A guiro is a dried, hollow gourd with ridged lines carved into the front. A hole is made in the back of the gourd so the musician can place his thumb into the gourd to grip it while playing. Sound is produced when a wooden or metal stick is scraped against the ridged lines. Wooden guiro sticks produce a smooth scraping sound, while metal sticks create a deeper resonance.
- Like the conga drum, the chekere is African in origin. Specifically, the chekere comes from Nigeria, where it is known as an agbe. Made from a dried hollow gourd, the chekere is wrapped in a mesh of beads or shells. The musician shifts the mesh back and forth between his hands, creating a rhythmic sound somewhat like a smoother version of a maraca shaker.