CongaDr+ Tony's Conga Adventures: October 2014

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Cuban Bongo Restoration - 50's Benny More' tour drums

Vintage Latin Mahogany Bongo from Cuba, restored to near new. 6" Macho, 7.5" Hembra

One extremely rare and Vintage set of Mahogany Cuban Sonoc Bongo of the highest order. I believe the set was made in the early 1950's. Perhaps just before the world tour in 1954.

Amazingly, it has an inventory label from a tour with the great Cuban singer Benny More'

Here is a clip of Benny More's with Mongo Santamaria.. no bongo in it, but this is a blog about congas anyhow.. ;)

This set has most likely had an unbelievable life, touring the world with Benny More', with one of the worlds top Latin band of the time, La Banda Gigante, on one or both huge world tours in the mid 50's. .. what this set has seen!

The set was purchased from a one of the top Latin percussion historians Dario Rosendo, from the bongocero named Claro of the World famous Cuban band Ritmo Oriental.

The set is quite amazing. It is made of the extinct Tree, and famed Cuban drum wood, Caoba that is still prized today for its legendary sound.

It sounds as beautiful as it looks. And it plays so nice seated. A medium weight Mahogany, not like the lighter Mahogany from Asia, more like walnut density. The hardware is strong, solid, and is efficient, in that its not over built. really the best design for a seated player.

It needed restoration, but was in really good shape for how much it was played. And it had this funky 50's circus influenced paint job.. quite a piece.

I can see it up on stage under the big lights. 

I restored the set to nearly new condition, with new high end kip skins. The set looks and plays amazingly, tunes nicely and is very well built.

The sound is so sweet, in the pocket, crisp and throaty with a woody love handle. The set has a lot of projection, and a crisp high end that makes your Martillo sharp, with fat, woody projection from the Hembra.

Here is a clip from the man himself, back in the day.. and I can report, this set sounds nearly the same as the set played here. 

I can see why it was played by the best of the best players of the 50's-70's.

The set has a tour inventory tag on the inside, the kind I have seen before, common on tours with huge bands, flying to different countries and having instruments professionally moved from one tour location to another.

So, this set, after going literally around the world playing huge gigs with Benny More', the biggest Latin act in the world at the time, it gets passed on to this amazingly fat Ritmo Oriental, one of the top Cuban bands of the time. What a life.

Here is some shots of the restoration process...

And a nice 'job well done' comment on FB by the patriarch of Latin Percussion, Martin Cohen, thanks Martin!