The Cajon is a percussion instrument that initially came from Peru. The word Cajon is derived from the Spanish word meaning a box, drawer, crate, or even coffin. It is an instrument that has six sides and is typically played by hitting the instrument with their hands as they sit at the top of the Cajon. Aside from hitting it with the player’s hands, some performers prefer to hit it with drumstick and mallets.According to history, this instrument was created by the African slaves in the 16th century since Africandrum musicwas banned during that time.
They creatively modified repurposed boxes that were left behind from the day’s work and turned it into their percussion instrument. Because they were prohibited from using the drum instrument, they disguised these boxes as a seat or stool whenever a local constabulary happened to pass by. After the ban, drawers, crates, and wardrobe’s side began to rise and were used as drums by the African slaves. Most notably, the Peruvian Cajon was what most people imagine a Cajon would be. Back then, their cajons have a cut-out hole in the back panel. The sound of the earlier cajons mostly brings bass sound and is primarily used as an accompaniment instrument.
Nowadays, several buskers on the street, as well as bands, get to enjoy and use the Cajon instrument. Moreover, it also serves as an accompaniment for singers and guitarists. Cajons are instruments that are transportable and reliable, especially in acoustic sets.
The core design of this instrument is elegant yet simple.Through the years, the design of the Cajon had undergone several changes. The instrument evolved to a thinner sheet of wood from thick boxes to add a snap and acoustic projection—thethin sheets of plywood measures about ½ to ¾ inch thick for several striking points. Similar to a snare drum, the edge of the Cajon tends to produce a high and sharper tone, which is perfect to use as a backbeat.
However, as the performer move closer to the center front of the Cajon, a lower pitch can be heard, which typically functions as a bass drum. It also has a soundhole that is cut on the backside of the Cajon. Modern cajons usually have rubber feet and has several screws for adjusting the instrument’s timbre. Initially, the Cajon is made only of wooden boxes. As the years progress, the materials used in making Cajon have also improved that they now used cords at the top of the instrument to create a buzz-like effect. Additionally, bells were also sometimes installed inside the cajon’s cords.
Leon Mobley playing a Cajon
Each country has its own version of Cajon. In fact, there are several variations of the Cajon instrument. Some of these famous variations were listed below:
- Flamenco Cajon: This type of Cajon has guitar strings at the back of its playing surface. With this, this Cajon produces a typical Flamenco sound.
- Snare Cajon: The Snare Cajon is the modern version of the Cajon. This has been created to accent the snare sound provided by the Cajon. Unlike the Flamenco Cajon, the Snare Cajon has a snare wire inside it, which gives it the sound of a snare.
- Peruvian Cajon: The Peruvian Cajon is considered as the first-ever Cajon among the others. It is said that the Peruvian Cajon was an instrument inspired by the actual shipping crates that the African slaves turned into drums back in the 18th These types of Cajon have no snare systems, and their corners are sealed. It’s just a simple Cajon that has a sound hole at the back.
- Cuban Cajon:These are cajons that were usually used in Afro-Cuban music. The Cuban Cajon has five sides and is played similar to the conga drum. Unlike the cajons mentioned above, the Cuban Cajon has a more open sound, and it has no snares.
- Electronic Cajons: The ElCajon is a type of electronic Cajon that has features that allow for unique sound layering and a variety of genres. It is a Cajon that has two electric trigger zones that can access thirty different kits ranging from traditional to percussion and to a wide range of sound effects.