Cajons are fun and easy to play. After just a little practice, basic beats and grooves can be achieved. It can be used by drummers as a substitute for their throne, playing on it with one hand, while the other hand keeps time on the ride- or the hi-hat.
Many drummers also use the Cajon during unplugged gigs, certain songs, or spontaneous sessions as its ability to emulate many sounds serves as an excellent substitute for a complete drum set.
Traditionally, Cajons are played by sitting on the padded top of the box while slightly leaning backwards. The front plate is struck with the bare hands. Various playing techniques help to create different sounds ranging from deep bass tones to cutting highs and slaps.
A nice effect can be achieved by sliding the foot up and down the front plate when playing the Cajon, in effect changing the pitch of its tone.
A unique and inspiring sound is achieved when playing the Cajon's front plate with a pair of brushes or rods.
The history of the CajonThe Cajon, which is the Spanish word for box, has been part of Afro-Peruvian music since the 19th Century. The instrument originated in colonial Peru, when the slaves whose African drums had been forbidden by their masters, used wooden boxes intended to hold fruits or overturned drawers to play their rhythms on. Later the Cajon was officially added to the instrumentation of the vals criollo, or "creole waltz." It is now a national emblem for Peruvians, and an indispensable part of any ensemble that performs the traditional folk music of Peru.
The Cajon's later development can be clearly traced back to one man, the Flamenco guitar player Paco de Lucia. In the early 1970's, the Spanish embassy in Lima, Peru hosted a party for Paco de Lucia, where they had a traditional Peruvian band perform utilizing the Cajon. Flamenco music comprises many different rhythms which are normally played by the guitar player striking the body of the guitar. At that party, Paco de Lucia asked his former percussionist Ruben Danta to play the "Buleria" on the Cajon, which is one of the rhythms used in Flamenco. Consequently, Paco de Lucia took the Cajon with him back to Spain. The short staccato sounds, which can be played on the Cajon, make it perfect for Flamenco music, because that sound naturally relates to the footwork and hand-claps ("palmas") used in Flamenco. Since the Cajon's historic migration from Peru to Spain, its use has spread worldwide. (from Meinl Percussion)
Read about the history of the Cajon at Percussion Source Anthology.