CongaDr+ Tony's Conga Adventures: Cajon al Muerto

Sunday, August 1, 2010

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Cajon al Muerto

So, the Bantu are a people from Central Africa who have the most amazing folkloric traditions.

a bit about the Bantu from

The Bantu people make up about 2/3 of Africa's population, and inhabit the southern and eastern part of the continent.

The Bantu migrated from Congo or Niger Delta Basin Their migration throughout Africa is one of the largest migrations in human history. This migration began in about 1000 AD -1800 AD. There is continued speculation about why they moved in the first place. One reason may be that overpopulation encouraged some groups to move away in order to practice agriculture. Another could be that they were in search of fertile land. Or, the move may have been due to internal conflicts within their communities or external attacks by their neighbors.

The Bantu were some of the first Metallurgists on the planet, knows to bring iron working to humanity.

And some eurocentric information for you: a Cheesy documentary about people of Bantu decent in southern Africa, nice to see the context, as often we get lost in the drums song and dance (note the 12/8 bell).. but the entirety of it all fits together that makes the experience deeply spiritual:

So, these traditions made their way to the islands the Caribbean, and was one of the traditions maintained through unimaginable hardship.. to survive today...

So, here is how the rhythms and song expressed in the Dominican Republic, not the religious aspect in this clip, but an idea of how these rhythms played out in the popular culture of DR, check out the rocking clip below.. and see if you can keep up with the bell!

And the Cubans have a particularly interesting homage to the Congo, the Cajon al Muerto, or Cajon Esperitual, among many other names..

It is performed in Religious Ceremony to honor the dead.. Serous business, thick with significance, and deeply spiritual.

Here is an example of a 'Cajon' in Cuba, with, I believe, "El Negro" Triana who worked with Pancho Quinto among others (;

Ok, so the Cuban version of this Ceremony is played, usually, with three Cajones, a Guataca, or bell, and often a Cata as well. Played for the worshipers, is a series of rhythms, songs, rituals that pay homage to our ancestors and guiding spirits, as well as to the Bantu people of Congo long ago.

Various forms of Palo and Macuta are the most common songs and rhythms played, and the focus of the ceremony is on the dead. Yuka and Tumba Francesa is also played in some houses, from what I understand.

Yesterday, I played my first 'Cajon' and I can tell you.. the Ceremony is amazing. Its incredible that, in the heart of Oakland, I felt like I was in Matanzas all day!

After playing at breakneck speed for hours, there is no better reward than a huge plate of Soul/Carebbean food!

I sat down to a plate stacked as high as possible with rice, beans, yuka, Platanos, Chicken, Pork, papas, greens, corn bread, mac and cheese.. please...

What a blessing to be called in. Im so overwhelmingly blessed.


  1. Thanks for continuing to post. Intriguing stuff.

  2. There's a link to my thesis on cajón pa' muerto on my website ( I'd be curious to hear how the Cuban version compared to California for you. Also, I put up some videos on YouTube of Grupo Cuero y Cajón doing some of the songs.


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