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Pronounced ("coung- gus"), also referred to as tumbadoras, are barrel-shaped drums made of wood or fiberglass covered with tanned calf, mule or cow skin stretched on one side. The "conga" is used as the basic drum in most Cuban music and Cuban rhythm. Cuban music is a mixture of African and Spanish culture. Well over half the slaves brought to Cuba were from the Congo, while the others came from the Yoruban populations of West Africa (Nigeria, Benin, etc.). They brought the rhythms and drumming of their religions which gave way to Santeria in Cuba, Vodou in Haiti, and Candombe in Brazil. To this day, the Yoruban languages of western Nigeria, Benin and Kikongo from the Congo are spoken and sung in Cuba. Congas come in three basic sizes; the tumba or tumbadora, (largest drum-female), the conga, (medium drum-male), and the quinto , (smallest drum-child?). In traditional Afro-Cuban music, each person plays only one drum. Nowadays, there is commonly only one "conguero" (one who plays the conga) who plays all the parts in the band. In most cases, the conga and tumba, each play their own rhythms while the quinto plays a solo on top of the rhythmic foundation. When played in a seated position, the conga drum is held between the legs and tilted slightly forward for greater resonance, with the tumba placed to the right of the conga. Combined with different hand positions, the palms and hands strike the drum skin in different places to produce different sounds and rhythms.

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The WORLD BEATS video features live, costumed performances of ancient, ethnic, percussive traditions. Aaron Plunkett puts it all together in this fascinating 33 minute program. SEE MORE...

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