What is a Cajon?

A Cajon (pronounced “kahone”) is a percussion instrument. This instrument has evolved from being a simple box drum created out of wood boxes, crates, etc. to a professionally constructed percussion instrument, often incorporating the latest in musical technology.

The Cajon was most likely developed in coastal Peru during the early 1800s.  It was a substitute for the African drums which were prohibited to the slaves brought to the New World. Knowing the Cajon comes from slave musicians in the Spanish colonial Americas, there are two complementary origin theories for the instrument.  Firstly, it is possible that the drum is a direct descendant of a number of box-like musical instruments from west and central Africa.These instruments were adapted by the Peruvian slaves from the Spanish shipping crates at their disposal.  Secondly, another theory posits that slaves simply used boxes as musical instruments to combat contemporary Spanish colonial bans on music in predominantly African areas.  In this way, a Cajon could easily be disguised as a seat or stool, thus avoiding identification as a musical instrument.

The modern Cajon is still constructed using a wide variety of materials and methods.  The most notable developments, other than the variations in types and thickness of woods and varying methods of construction, are the additions of guitar strings, snare wires,  and other items to create a variety of sounds. 

The Cajon  shape and size allows this instrument to be easily transported.  Most will fit in the back of a vehicle for easy transport to jam sessions, performances, campfires, or other events. The similarity in sound of the Cajon to a drum-kit is  impressive and is often considered an alternative to a complete set of drums.