I recently had the opportunity to build a set of bongos. I was really excited to take on this build as I have never really connected with the bongo drums. I guess a part of me always saw the bongos as a toy drum. At drum circles it was the quietest drum, only heard on faint accents or when the pulse would fade out. It was my ignorance that kept me from looking into the cultural significance, dynamic tones, and beautiful rhythms of the bongos. After building this set, I am hooked. Many more will follow!
Building the bongo shells, the macho is the smaller higher pitched drum and the hembra is the larger tonal drum, was quite easy. Very simple and straight forward. They felt small and insignificant in my hands especially after having just build a large 18″ diameter djembe. The flamed box elder looking wonderful but it wasn’t until I made the middle block and connected the two shells that the bongos really spoke to me. This was the turning point in the build and of my perception of the bongos.
Before the drums were even headed I went online to find traditional bongo rhythms and learn a bit about the history and cultural importance of the bongos. I also was search out specific bongo technique to learn all I could before heading up this set. There were lots of beginner bongo lessons covering Martillo, a specific pattern common on bongos. I watched a few of the videos, lots of variations and different techniques, but found this one to be the most helpful for me to learn the basic technique and rhythm. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fi3tlqrYklE.
I built the stainless hardware similar to the conga build I did a few months earlier. I learned a lot! My next go around I will use slightly thicker gauge stainless, and wider crown hoops. I’m thinking really hard about getting the ears or the hoop brackets laser cut. This would give me much better consistency, and save so much time. I’ll still do all the welding and bending operations, but the brackets and the conga side plates just might need to be laser cut. I made the lugs just a tad too short so the bongo heads sit slightly lower than I would have liked. Ideally they’d be up a bit higher and the lugs would extend out more from the bottom – Next time! One of my favorite parts of building the hardware is the end! Really – when I sandblast that stainless and this smooth matte finish crawls over the hardware, it’s quite beautiful and very satisfying. Keep an eye out in my online store for my bongos to become available to buy.
All in all I’m very happy with this bongo build. I look forward to building many more of these in the future and learning more about the Latin rhythms.