The history of cajón flamenco

Even if we all associate its sound with flamenco, the origins of the cajón are found in Peru. More precisely in the African slave’s population that were forced to go to South and Central America after the Spanish colonization.

The cajón arose from the need of the slaves to express their discontent through their music, deeply linked to percussion. In the 17th century, the Catholic religion forbidden to the slaves the use of drums for considering them pagan and for believing that it was a way to communicate between themselves. Because of this, during the first years of the 19th century is almost impossible to find historical references in the documents of the Viceroyalty of Peru, and it won’t be until 1840 when we can read about the cajón as a music instrument. Therefore, the first cajones were just wooden boxes that were used in the transport of goods.

Despite of what could seems, flamenco music had to wait until 1977 to hear the beats of the cajón in Spain. The great guitarist Paco de Lucía discovered the cajón during one of his tours in America, in a party organized by the Spanish ambassador in Peru. He and his team realized that its sound was more “restrained to flamenco” than other percussion instruments that were used until that moment, according to Manuel Soler in an interview for in 1999.

The general incorporation of the cajón in flamenco music invited to the musicians to experiment modifications with its construction, but remaining the original shape. The use of strings in the inside or the way of setting the top to the main box are variations included in the last decades, which for a lot of people are enough reasons to add to the cajón the middle name of “flamenco”.

Nowdays this instrument is internationally known as cajón flamenco or Spanish cajón, which leads to the idea of a Spanish origin. However, Peruvian and African artists want to give value to the real roots of this instrument.

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