Cajón (Spanish: [kaˈxon]; “box”, “crate” or “drawer”) is a box-shaped percussion instrument originally from Peru, played by slapping the front or rear faces (generally thin plywood) with the hands, fingers, or sometimes implements such as brushes, mallets, or sticks. Cajones are primarily played in Afro-Peruvian music (specifically música criolla), but has made its way into flamenco as well. The term cajón is also applied to other box drums used in Latin American music, such as the Cuban cajón de rumba and the Mexican cajón de tapeo.
The cajón is the most widely used Afro-Peruvian musical instrument since the late 16th century. Slaves of west and central African origin in the Americas are considered to be the source of the cajón drum. Currently, the instrument is common in musical performance throughout some of the Americas and Spain. The cajón was developed during the periods of slavery in coastal Peru. The instrument reached a peak in popularity by 1850, and by the end of the 19th century cajón players were experimenting with the design of the instrument by bending some of the planks in the cajón’s body to alter the instrument’s patterns of sound vibration. After slavery the cajón was spread to a much larger audience including Criollos.
Given that the cajón comes from slave musicians in the Spanish colonial Americas, there are two complementary origin theories for the instrument. It is possible that the drum is a direct descendant of a number of boxlike musical instruments from west and central Africa, especially Angola, and the Antilles. These instruments were adapted by slaves from the Spanish shipping crates at their disposal. In port cities like Matanzas, Cuba, codfish shipping crates and small dresser drawers became similar instruments. Peruvian musician and ethnomusicologist Susana Baca recounts her mother’s story that the cajón originated as “the box of the people who carried fruit and worked in the ports,” putting it down to play on whenever they had a moment. Another theory is that slaves used boxes as musical instruments to subvert Spanish colonial bans on music in predominantly African areas, essentially disguising their instruments.
While early 20th century versions of the festejo appeared to have been performed without the cajón, especially due to the influence of Perú Negro, a musical ensemble founded in 1969, the cajón began to be more important than the guitar and, indeed, became “a new symbol of Peruvian blackness”.
After a short 1980 visit and TV presentation in Lima along with Peruvian percussionist Caitro Soto, Spanish flamenco guitar player Paco de Lucía brought a cajón to Spain to use it in his own music, after being impressed by the rhythmic possibilities of the instrument. In 2001, the cajón was declared National Heritage by the Peruvian National Institute of Culture. In 2014, the Organization of American States declared the cajón an “Instrument of Peru for the Americas”.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
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