Origin of the flamenco cajón

 In Flamenco Instruments, Flamenco Show

In flamenco groups, although singing and dancing are the protagonists, they would not be anything without a good accompaniment. The instruments, such as the guitar and the flamenco cajón, are the ones that give the beat and give the rhythm to the dancers.

The route of the cajón as a musical instrument goes back to Peru, more specifically to the 19th century. It was the African ethnic groups, who arrived in America as slaves, who introduced this kind of drum played with their hands into the continent. This is why the first drawers were used by slaves and were nothing more than wooden boxes, used to transport goods.

This sound was used in African music to express their feelings, especially those of discomfort, due to the rumbling of percussion.

The flamenco cajón: origin and evolution

Although it is almost impossible to conceive of a flamenco show without a cajón, it wasn’t until 1977 that it was introduced directly into flamenco rhythms.

The story of his arrival in Spain is linked to the great Paco de Lucía who, during a tour of Latin America, arrived in Peru, where he discovered this great instrument at a party organised by the Spanish ambassador.

At that time, he was accompanied by Rubem Dantas, who was touring with the flamenco artist, and who played some small bongoes. After seeing the sound of the cajón, he decided to add it to his tour, and that same night he played it accompanying Manuel Soler‘s guitar and dance.

It was the beginning of a new incorporation to flamenco, in this case, of an instrument. Its name `cajón flamenco´ began to be used from the generalization of its use within this musical style. As Silvia Calado stated in Flamenco-world.com, its integration was very natural as “it is halfway between clapping and taconeo”.

`Cajón´, `flamenco cajón´ or `spanish cajón´

You can call it cajón, cajón flamenco or cajón español, but its real origin is in Peruvian and African artists. That’s why, in 2001, it was recognized in Peru as “Patrimonio de la Nación” (National Heritage).

The truth is that its value within a flamenco show is unquestionable. The artists have been adapting it to their convenience, so it’s easy to identify a flamenco box-drum as soon as you see it. In addition to its more elongated shape, many have a hole, which can be found on the side, front or back.

flamenco cajon seville

In the beginning, this opening was in the center, but now, thanks to studies on sound waves, you can vary the location, depending on whether you want to favor high or low sounds. It is also common to see flamenco cajones with strings in these holes which, in addition to a clearly aesthetic function (reminiscent of the strings of a guitar), have the objective of favouring sound effects.

To be able to appreciate the cajón’s contribution to flamenco, you have to feel the vibration live. At Cuna del Flamenco we take a tour of all the flamenco palos, getting closer to their origins, letting our artists improvise and bring out all their art in the tablao flamenco. Reserve your ticket and feel the flamenco up close. We are waiting for you!

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