CongaDr+ Tony's Conga Adventures: JCR Congas - Master metal man Cali Rivera

Thursday, June 19, 2008

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JCR Congas - Master metal man Cali Rivera

For a long time, i heard about these bells made in the Bronx, that sounded much nicer than any bells we could get out in SF at the time.

A friend hooked me up with a small bongo bell from Cali before he was selling them out west.

This bell simply rocks, and i wouldnt sell it, at this point. Cali knows the sound the salseros crave out of their bells. His timbale, or mambo bells rock, and his agogo's are even nicer.

He ended up getting a contract with guitar center to distribute his bells. The newer ones are vey nice, but dont sound as nice as the older ones. They are still the best bells on the market, to my ear.

Anyway, Cali also makes some of the best bongo, and sets of Congas you have seen. I am told he actually has someone make the wooden shells for him, and he does all the metal work, but if thats not the case, im all ears.

Ive played Cali's oak congas, and some of his solid shell Cuban Mahogany bongo, and they sound top notch - about as good as it gets.

His oak congas were built like tanks, and were very heavy, but sounded more warm than expected.

His bongo are out of this world, and if you can get an old set of solid shells... jump on it. They are the most playable and best sounding bongo you will ever play.

From what i understand, Cali is making bongo again. We are so lucky to have him back in action!

JCR rep Isaac Gutwilik, pictured with Cali below, sent me an interview published in "world percussion and rhythm, volume VII issue 1" - not quite sure what year it ran. Thanks Isaac.

I didnt realize what a musician Cali is. No wonder... many people can make bells, but few have the ears to know what sound we are going for.

JCR bongos, JCR conga, JCR congas. J.C.R. bells, J.C.R bongos, J.C.R. bongo, J.C.R. congas


  1. Get Info on JCR!

    I just order a set of Bongo last week.

    Isaac told me he was turning the bongos now and Cali was doing only the metal work.

    Great site, please keep it up.

  2. Great blog! Thanks for the info amigo. I think I am going to try and get some bongos from this master "metal worker". My name is William Johnson. I am also a Latin Percussionist (Johnson is from my dad side whom I happen to be the fourth, Garcia's are my mothers side). I really like your blogspot. I am doing a percussion concert in August with some great musicians and friends including Luis Conte in August. My website is

  3. Thanks Heartbeat, and thanks for the info anon.

    Heartbeat, feel free to email me detail about the show. Im happy to promote it on this end.


  4. A couple of years ago I had a fire in my home...and among the instrumentd burned up wer a set of solid Cuban bongos. Junior had
    converted the old set with nailed on skins...which I used at the new tunable metal version. I was heartbroken at the loss. LP's etc. couldn't hold a candle to the Cuban drums. Then...I heard and bought a pair of JCR bongos at Drummers World in NY...and I was amazed. Every bit as good as the old Cubans. Crackin' Macho...projection...ease of play. Terrific! The best!
    Steve Powers


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