instruments

This Cuban instrument list was generated from our in-house database on instruments we have been building for 30 years, with more than 3,300 entries. Many have a variety of names and spellings as instruments travel – adapted and reinvented over time.  We’re not experts and welcome any help on making this index better and more complete.


abwe
Cuban scraper used in Yoruba derived lucumí ritual.

acheré,  atcheré or cheré
A rhythmic Cuban folk percussion instrument (shaker). Usually consists of a spheric receptacle filled with seeds and attached to a handle. Resembles a maraca but is larger and not played in pairs. The sphere is often constructed of the dried fruit of the calabash tree with a wooden handle attached. Usually played standing, holding the instrument by its handle, its sphere, or by both. The instrument is shaken rhythmically as a complimentary conductor and to enhance timber. Lucumi (Santeria ) batá ensembles use atcheré to call their dieties to ritual ceremonies, each diety having a special colored and decorated rattle.   Played in ensembles with arará, batá, bembé, conga, dundún, gangá, kinfuiti, palo, radá, rumba, and the tambourine. Has become a gereralized Afro-Cuban term for any rattle used for rituals.

adyá
Metal rattle from Cuba.

agbe
A Cuban folk percussion instrument. Also referred to as chequeré but most commonly as güiro. Consists of a hollow gourd-like fruit such as a pumpkin or squash that has been enmeshed by a beaded netting. The neck of the fruit is uncovered and serves as a handle. The beads are made from a variety of seeds of different sizes, but the most common seeds are taken from the following plants: maté, guacalote, jaboncillo, cayajabo, flamboyán, and ojos de buey.   To play the instrument, one grips it by the neck and shakes while knocking the bottom with the other hand. Usually played in groups of three, with each güiro differing in size. The small güiro is generally 368 mm in length (17 in), with diameter of neck at 68 mm (3.2 in), and central diameter of 182 mm (9 in). The medium güiro averages in measure to 387 mm in length (19 in), with neck 83 mm in diameter (4 in) and central diameter of 208 mm (10 in). The large güiro averages 395 mm in length (19 in), with neck diameter of 100 mm (4.9 in), and central diameter of 288 mm (14 in). Played in santería festivals.

agbé or agbe, agüe, agwe
Nigerian large rattle (idiophone) made from the hollowed gourd of the calabash tree covered with a netting strung with pieces of bamboo, beads or cowrie shells. Also exists in Cuba. Called lilolo in the Congo. Also known as chékere or güiro.

aggué
Another name for the Cuban chequeré, a hollow gourd idiophone covered in a beaded net,

agogo
Farm tool cum Cuban folk percussion instrument. Originally used for digging, consisting of a sharp-edged rectangular steel plate attached to a wooden pole. As an instrument, the pole and the handle are removed from the steel plate. The musician slips one thumb through the hole vacated by the handle while resting the plate on the palm of the hand. The center of the plate is struck with a spike. Can be played standing or sitting. Characterized by a brilliant and penetrating sound that fluctuates between medium-high and high frequencies and distinguishes it within an ensemble. Played in ensemble with the following instruments: arará, bembé, conga, dundún, gagá, gangá, güiro, kinfuiti, makuta, nagó, palo, radá, tanbourin, tonadas, trinitarian, tumba francesa and yuka. Most commonly referred to as guataca. Occasionally referred to as campana (bell) because of its similarly brilliant timbre. Referred to as reja or agogo in the province of Pinar del Río, where it usually accompanies yuka drums. Referred to by Haitian ensembles in Cuba as sanbá and wou. Also referred to as azadón ,azada, or ngongui.

agogô, ago-go
Agogó is a Yoruban Nigerian word whose name mimics the sound of the bell (or means bell [?]) when struck. It exists as both a single and a double bell form and functions as a time keeper in a variety of Yoruban popular musics. At it’s most intoxicating in fuji ensembles. Called ogene by the Ibo and by the onamaeopetic nkwong by the Ibibios, both Southeastern Nigerian people. Termed ogan in the Fon language of Togo.

In Brazil the agogô is a metal clapperless double-bell percussion instrument of West African origin. Bells are flanged like cowbells and joined with a curved piece of metal so as to be held in one hand. Made of tin or iron and sometimes riveted together. Bells produce separate tones when struck with a wooden stick, metal rod or drumstick.   Used in many Afro-Brazilian religious ceremonies and secular celebrations.   Became a common percussion instrument in nearly all Brazilian music and was introduced in America via Brazilian jazz in the 70s. Can also be the name for a single bell. A deep toned agogô is used in candomblé religious music called a gonguê. Also known as a gã, and called a gan in Bahia.

In Cuba the “agógo” is an essential instrument in Afro-Cuban Santería bembé ceremonies The bells come in various shapes and sizes, each referencing a particular Youruban diety. In Cuban secular ensembles multiple bells stung together are common.

anakué or anukuén
Cuban metal rattle made from two joined cones (looking like a bow-tie) and filled with small pebbles or seeds, used in Arará ceremonies.

arará tambores
Stemming from the material and spiritual tradition of present-day Benin in western Subsahara Africa, tambores arará are single headed Cuban folk drums. Constructed from cedar into the form of cup or cilinder, with goat hide stretched atop the open face of the instrument. The leather is pulled taut by rings of thick hemp which are maintained in place by braces of rope bound in zigzags. Played in groups of three or four, with each drum differing in size, although all tambores arará are heavy and large. The largest drum, referred to as asojün in Havana and Matanzas and as dajún among practitioners of the Arará cult in Agramonte, is usually 1045 mm (51 in) in length. The medium and small drums, whose names are far more diverse and numerous, measure 730 mm (36 in) and 660 mm (32 in) respectively. The drums are played by propping the instruments onto a metal brace that leaves the drums on an incline. The biggest drum is positioned in the middle, with the medium drum to the left and the small drum to the right. The drums are played by striking the top and the sides with hands and/or sticks made from the following woods: guayaba, marabú, yaya, and rascabarriga. The drum sticks are usually 300-400 mm (14-19 in) in length, 25-30 mm (1.2-1.4 in) in thickness.     Played in an ensemble the drums are usually accompanied by a cowbell. singular: tambor arará.

assongué
Cylindrical metal rattle, with pointed ends, and supported by a wooden handle, originating in the provinces of Matanzas and Havana, used in Arará ritual music.

azadón, azada
Farm tool cum Cuban folk percussion instrument. Originally used for digging, consisting of a sharp-edged rectangular steel plate attached to a wooden pole. As an instrument, the pole and the handle are removed from the steel plate. The musician slips one thumb through the hole vacated by the handle while resting the plate on the palm of the hand. The center of the plate is struck with a spike. Can be played standing or sitting. Characterized by a brilliant and penetrating sound that fluctuates between medium-high and high frequencies and distinguishes it within an ensemble. Played in ensemble with the following instruments: arará, bembé, conga, dundún, gagá, gangá, güiro, kinfuiti, makuta, nagó, palo, radá, tanbourin, tonadas, trinitarian, tumba francesa and yuka. Most commonly referred to as guataca. Occasionally referred to as campana (bell) because of its similarly brilliant timbre. Referred to as reja or agogo in the province of Pinar del Río, where it usually accompanies yuka drums. Referred to by Haitian ensembles in Cuba as sanbá and wou. Also referred to as azadón ,azada, or ngongui.

batá
1). West African drum ensemble sacred to the Yoruba people of Nigeria used in the worship of Sango (Shango, Changó), the God of lightening and thunder. His symbol is the double headed axe, and the batá drums mimic this shape. Drum ensemble consists of five carved wooden drums. The first 3 are double headed and cone-shaped: the Iyá Ilu (mother drum), omele (male drum), and the kudi (small drum). The largest Iyá Ilu drum often has cast brass bells on it’s body that vibrate as the drum is played. Lower ends of the drums often wrapped in cane. There are also two shallow hemispherical single head drums called the omele ako (male drum) and the emele abo (female drum).

2). Drum and drum ensemble common to Afro-Cuban Santería (sometimes called Lecumí, after the language) worship, a new world religion developed by slaves of Yoruban descent. While drums are sacred to Changó, drum salutes or praise rhythms are a part of honoring the full pantheon of orichas (dieties representing aspects of God), drums wrapped in scarves in the colors of the dieties they honored. Santería batá are double headed with a cylindrical shape that narrows at one end, and are placed across the lap and played with the hands. Batá exist in three sizes: the largest called iyá, short form of “mother” in Yoruba, (also called ‘caja’ by NY Salceros), mid-sized batá called itótele (or omelé enkó), and the smallest, okónkolo (also kónkolo, oméle or améle). The largest drumhead of each instrument is called the énu (or enú, ‘mouth’ in Yoruba) and the small, reasonably enough, tcha tchá, (or chachá, ‘butt’ or ‘anus’). The iyá leads the ensemble, often engaging in a ‘conversation’ with the itótele. The iyá drumheads are ringed with a string of small brass bells or beads called ichauoró (tchaworo, chaworo or chaguoro), and the énu -end’s skin has a ring of clay called idá (or fardela) applied to it’s surface to dampen overtones and lower the pitch. The iyá is also played standing with a bell laden leather strap slung over the neck.

Consecrated batá (aña, or fundamento) can only be played by male initiates, while unbaptized drums (aberikula) can be played by anyone. Religious instruments are constructed from once living materials, ideally the body carved from a single piece of wood, and tuned by tensioning ropes or rawhide, while commercial instruments can be of fiberglass and have metal tuning lugs. Cuban composer Gilberto Valdés wrote a piece incorporating the drum into secular music in the 1930s.   Baté drumming came first to New York in the 50s from Cuba, and the two most accomplished performers were Julio Collazo and Francisco Aguabella. The next contact with a master drummer did not occur until the Mariel immigration in 1980 and the arrival of Orlando Puntilla Rios. Elements of Santería drumming are being used more and more frequently by progressive Latin and salsa groups / percussionists, incl; Irakere, Jerry Gonzalez, Batacumbele and Zaperoko. Originally a male only instrument, modern ensembles also attract female drummers. These drums remain the most important of the Afro-Cuban drums in Cuban music.

3. Black Dance in the United States calls them ‘omele’ and describes the drums as a set of eight used in Shango rituals of Yoruban cults of Brazil, Cuba and Trinidad.

4. A generic name for West African drums and used indiscriminately to describe any Afro-Brazilian drum, but most often the master drum.

bembe macagua
Consecrated Lucumí bembe religious drums from Matanzas province, created by the Majino people and dedicated as war drums to Chango. Majino, Arara Sabalú, and Macagua rhythms are associated with this drum set, consisting of the cachimbo, mula and caja drums. To distinguish Majino drums of Lucumi drums a fourth drum, the bajo, was added to the set.

binkomé
Drum in the enkómo set of three drums used in Cuban Abakuá ritual. This one-note barrel drum has a skin covered wooden body, the head secured with chords on the outside of the body. The other drums are the opiabá and the kuchiyeremá .

bocú
Cuban conical single headed, open ended, skin covered long, narrow, high pitched barrel drum that comes in various sizes, made from slats and held together with iron hoops. Played with the hands, and slung with a strap over the neck, the drum common to street processions (comparsas) in Cuba’s eastern provinces of Santiago de Cuba and Oriente. lit; ‘drum’ in Congolese Kikongo language. Three designations and rhythmic functions; fondo, requinto and quinto.

bombo criollo
An adaptation of the European military bass drum, used in Cuba for carnaval in styles such as the conga. This creole bass drum has a metal or wooden body, the double heads held in place by hoops, approx. 50cm in diameter, and is played with a mallet or the hands.

bombos
Bombos, synonymous with tamboras, is a generic term for a variety of Cuban drums that, more often than not, have two membrane surfaces for drumming. Usually constructed from cedar, pine, plywood, or galvanized zinc, and goat hide, there are eleven varieties of form and dimension:

1) Hollow cilinder with two leather membranes nailed to the drum on either side
2) Hollow cilinder with two leathers clenched by a hoop and braces of rope adjusted by braces
3) Hollow cilinder with two leathers clenched by a system of hoops and keys
4) Conic tube with two leathers clenched by a hoop and braces of rope, kept in place by crossing straps
5) Barrel-shaped cilinder with leather clenched by a system of rings and keys
6) Barrel-shaped cilinder with leather nailed on
7) Conic-shaped cilinder with leather nailed on
8) Conic-shaped cilinder with leather attached by a ring
9) Circular, tambourine-esque drum with two leathers nailed on
10) Circular, tambourine-esque drum clenched by hoops and ligatures
11) Circular, tambourine-esque drum with two leathers attached by metallic hoops
sing: bombo.

bongó
Small Cuban connected twin drum, high pitched and tuned a fourth apart, held between the knees and played mostly with the index fingers and rarely the palms. The slightly larger head is the ‘hembra’ (female) and the smaller the ‘macho’ (male). Pitch can further be raised by pressing the center of the drumhead while hitting it w/ the fingers. Traditionally made from cedar, contributing to the bright sound. Originally tuned by heating, now drumheads are keyed.

Bongós of African origin are the major percussion instrument of son groups, originally from Eastern Cuba, where early versions were two sepatate drums enjoined by a leather strap, one off to the side and one held between the knees.   Eventually the instrument was a staple of small combos, was fully integrated into larger salsa orchestras as well as establishing a Latin Jazz, and an occasional cool jazz association. The basic rhythm of the bongó, is called the martillo (the hammer) and players are given a great deal of improvisational freedom. Player called a bongosero, who is expected to double on the campana, (cowbell) when instruments other than the piano solo during the montuno section. Adopted in the 50s by the ‘beatnik’ demimonde to accompany poetry readings and thereafter on college campuses and by teenagers as a sign of ‘hipness’ (Now dated. Like, I owned a pair, man.)

bonkó enchemiyá
Large (a meter high) Cuban single headed skin covered Abakuá barrel drum, slightly tapered towards the bottom. Played tilted up, on edge resting on a stone, the main drummmer (monibonká) striding the body and playing the head with his hands, while another (monitón) plays the lower body with sticks (itónes). Also sometimes played upright and carried is a street march. Part of a suite of three drums known as the enkómo.

botija or bunga, botijuela
Clay jug, designed to carry Spanish olive oil to the new world, adapted as a folk bass instrument in Cuban music. Some are played by blowing across the open hole in the top, while some have a hole perferated near the neck and the sound manipulated with the hands. Can be tuned by adding water to the jug. Along with the marimbula, the botija played the bass parts in Cuban son ensembles, later replaced by the upright string bass. Of African origin and also called bunga.

cachimbo
The smallest of the drums used in the yuka, a pre-rumba Cuban folk dance of Bantu origin.

caja
lit: ‘box’. A common Spanish term used for any drum. In Colombia a two headed drum used in vallenato, origin attributed to Black slaves. Cylindrical, with goatskin heads secured with dried cactus fiber and having shims that allow for tuning. A recent variation has the heads made from x-ray film!   Three major rhythm are el adominicao, el rodado and los tres golpes. Adopted by indiginous Indians also, who covered the body in gold and believing the sound sacred. In Panama a locally made snare drum of Afro-Hispanic origin that provides the constant base rhythm to Tamborito dance music.

The Chipaya Indians of South America called their round, sometimes square, two headed tamborine, caja. New York Salceros call the iyá drum derived from Afro-Cuban Santería, caja .   One of the drums used in the yuka, a pre-rumba Cuban folk dance of Bantu origin. A general term for a drum in the Spanish speaking Caribbean. In Cuba the ‘caja china’ describes a brick shaped wooden block drum with a slit; also known as nbogoi or popó. Among Spanish and French gypsies a term for a wooden box drum imported from the Caribbean.

cajita China
A Cuban folk percussion instrument. Constructed by Chinese immigrants to Cuba, cajita china means “little Chinese box.” A rectangular wooden box with a hollow interior and rounded corners. The two larger faces of the box are arched toward each other, and the parameters of the cavity are constructed to arch parallel to their corresponding exteriors. Typically, the base length of the large sides is 177 mm (8.5 in), base width is 62 mm (3 in), height at center of the cavity is 37 mm (1.5 in), and height at end corners is 30 mm (approx. 1.2 in).   Hence, the cavity is widest at its center. Usually constructed of fibrous, heavy woods such as dágame, ácana, majagua, cedro, júcaro, sabicú, and chicharrón. An idiophone, cajita china is played by being struck with drumsticks of guayabo wood that are 255 mm in length (11.5 in) and 20 mm in perimeter (approx. 0.9 in). Can be played seated or standing, striking the box at its center. Most often played in rumba and son ensembles. Functions to conduct complimentary rhythms within an ensemble, linking the conducting rhythm of the claves with the improvisational rhythm of a tumbling drum. Sometimes substitutes for the clave and its conducting function. Referred to as chiong-pang within the Chinese musical tradition that it was created in, chiong meaning “to direct” and pang meaning “wood” with the conductor employing the instrument to direct the ensemble. Also referred to as cajita musical, or “little musical box.” Also referred to as cajita japonesa , or “little Japanese box,” because of another Asiatic idiophone that was popular with Chinese immigrants to Cuba.

cajita musical
A Cuban folk percussion instrument. Cajita musical means “little musical box.” Typically referred to as cajita china. Constructed by Chinese immigrants to Cuba, cajita china means “little Chinese box.” A rectangular wooden box with a hollow interior and rounded corners. The two larger faces of the box are arched toward each other, and the parameters of the cavity are constructed to arch parallel to their corresponding exteriors. Typically, the base length of the large sides is 177 mm (8.5 in), base width is 62 mm (3 in), height at center of the cavity is 37 mm (1.5 in), and height at end corners is 30 mm (approx. 1.2 in).   Hence, the cavity is widest at its center. Usually constructed of fibrous, heavy woods such as dágame, ácana, majagua, cedro, júcaro, sabicú, and chicharrón. An idiophone, cajita china is played by being struck with drumsticks of guayabo wood that are 255 mm in length (11.5 in) and 20 mm in perimeter (approx. 0.9 in). Can be played seated or standing, striking the box at its center. Most often played in rumba and son ensembles. Functions to conduct complimentary rhythms within an ensemble, linking the conducting rhythm of the claves with the improvisational rhythm of a tumbling drum. Sometimes substitutes for the clave and its conducting function. Referred to as chiong-pang within the Chinese musical tradition that it was created in, chiong meaning “to direct” and pang meaning “wood” with the conductor employing the instrument to direct the ensemble. Also referred to as cajita japonesa , or “little Japanese box,” because of another Asiatic idiophone that was popular with Chinese immigrants to Cuba.

cajón or cajónes
A Cuban folk percussion instrument made from a commercial crate or packing box, a box used to ship candles very popular. Cajón translates to “box.” Consists of a rectangular wooden box with one or two holes in its sides for resonance. Occasionally it appears in the form of a rectangular pyramid, such that the base is in the shape of a large rectangle and the top is a smaller rectangle. In such cases the instrument stands on its smaller end and the larger end is open. For the more common box form, six planks of cedar, white pine, or majagua wood are nailed together. Each plank measures in the vicinity of 8 to 10 mm in thickness (0.5 in), 200 mm in width (9 in), and 300 mm in length (14 in). The pyramidal form is usually made of plywood. Every cajón has a variety of apertures to manipulate resonance and timber. These holes can be circular, squarish, or any other shape. Cajones are given different numbers and names according to their sizes, typically with the largest as primero (first), mayor (major), or conga. To play, the instrumentalist is usually seated while gripping the instrument with the knees, employing an “open stroke’ or golpe abierto. This stroke hits the center or the border of the top with all four fingers but not the thumb. Played in rumba ensembles, usually in the folk genres of yambú, guaguancó, and columbia.   When played in religious Santería festivals, referred to as cajones de fundamento. Termed cajoncito when used to describe a smaller than usual instrument.

campana
Bell played by the bongocera in Cuban music. Also called the bongo bell. In Santiago Cuba originally a break drum used as a percussion instrument to accompany the Conga drums. lit; “bell” in Spanish.

campanitas Chinas
Campanitas chinas is a Cuban folk percussion instrument consisting of a long pole with a frame of thin rods attached to its end. From this frame dangle little bells and bits of iron that produce sound upon being shaken, producing the rhythm of the chambelonas. “Campanitas chinas” might be translated as “Chinese little bells.” Very rare, campanitas chinas was first documented in Los Instrumentos de la Música Afrocubana by Fernando Ortiz in the early twentieth century upon his observation of Cuban folk music.

cascara
Spanish for ‘shell’. refers to the rhythm played on the shell of the timbale, and also to sides of the timbale.

catá
A Cuban folk percussion instrument having a variety of regional and descriptive names and forms, the catá is either cylindrical or box shaped, open ended or closed, hollow or solid and made of cane, wood or sheet metal.

There are two standard variations of catá: the first is a open or closed cylinder made of sheet metal or more typically made of a section of the trunk of old cane that has been stripped of its bark and deteriorations but is unpolished and unpainted, usually with an approximate length of 37 mm (1.6 in ??? look at picture?) and diameter of 80 mm (36.5 in). Cata can also be constructed from wooden planks in either a rectangular (6 sided) or pyramidal (5 sided) shape, forming a hollow closed instrument.
The second variation is typically constructed of six planks of cedar or plywood that are 450 mm (22.5 in) in length, 248 mm (11 in) in width, and 160 mm (7.5 in) in height that have been glued, nailed, and assembled into obtuse, acute, and right angles. This type of catá is most often closed and unpolished.

Both varieties of catá are played with drumsticks of heavy wood such as guayabo. The drumsticks need not be identical in length nor diameter, with some reaching lengths of 300 mm (15 in) and diameters of 15 mm (0.5 in).

Usually played in rumba and gagá ensembles. The instrumentalist positions the horizontal side so that it faces him, resting the instrument either on a tripod or on his/her knees. The catá is struck either in the center or along its border, often in two different positions. The catá is rhythmic in function, generally conducting the ensemble or

Referred to as guagua in the provinces of Matanzas and Guantánamo, where it is played in rumba ensembles and by groups of Congolese origin. Also referred to in the Cuban east ascañabrava and in the west ascañambú (bamboo). Also referred to ascajita china, cajita musical, caja, cajón, cajoncito, catá pila, catalier, hueco, nkonko, palo, or palitos.

The word catá is either Congolese in origin or an onomatopoetic reference to the sound the intrument produces.

catacoo
Bahamian name for the Cuban claves used in Junkanoo music. Also called ‘cleavers’.

cencerro
Large Cuban cowbell, made from a piece of sheet metal (zinc) folded into a trapezoidal shape or a bell with the clapper removed, held in the hand and sounded with a stick or metal rod. This two note percussion instrument is a part of most salsa ensembles and is usually first struck by the bongosero durring the mambo section of a song. Johnny Pacheco created a vaiant in the ‘60s, the ‘Pacheco Bell’, with a groove cut across the surface allowing added tones. Outside the Latin world Messiaen used the cencerro. lit: ‘cowbell” Based on the ekón of the Nañigo people, african slaves brought to Cuba. Also called gangarria and campana (bell). In province of Granma called perol and tilín in Manatí province. Called chaworo in Lucumi ritual.

chachá
Rhythmic Cuban folk percussion instrument. Often constructed of a hollow metallic cone that is filled with heavy pellets and attached to a handle. Played in pairs.   While there are many modifications of the instrument, there are a few common elements between all chachás. Most chachás are constructed from sheets of tin, although galvanized zinc is often used. The sheet metal is punctured to create a border of alternating, symmetrical points. The sheet is then folded into a cone. For a softer maraca sort of sound, the chachá is filled with seeds of corn, begonias, or aroma plants. For a stronger sound, pebbles are used, although some instrumentalists prefer wheat for a more compact and resonant sound. For a yet stronger and metallic sound, rivets of copper wire are used. The instruments are shaken either by the handle, the cone, or alternations of the cone and the handle. Brightly colored ribbons are often attached and the instrument held high above the head and shaken. Also referred to as maruga.

chaworo
The Lucumi ritual name for the cencerro (cow bell) in Cuba

chequeré, chékere or chekeré
A Cuban folk percussion instrument. Also referred to as agbe and and aggué, but most commonly as güiro. Consists of a hollow gourd-like fruit such as a pumpkin or squash that has been enmeshed by a beaded netting. The neck of the fruit is uncovered/open and serves as a handle. The beads are made from a variety of seeds of different sizes, but the most common seeds are taken from the following plants: maté, guacalote, jaboncillo, cayajabo, flamboyán, and ojos de buey. To play the instrument, one grips it by the neck and shakes while knocking the bottom with the other hand. Usually played in groups of three, with each güiro differing in size. The small güiro is generally 368 mm in length (17 in), with diameter of neck at 68 mm (3.2 in), and central diameter of 182 mm (9 in). The medium güiro averages in measure to 387 mm in length (19 in), with neck 83 mm in diameter (4 in) and central diameter of 208 mm (10 in). The large güiro averages 395 mm in length (19 in), with neck diameter of 100 mm (4.9 in), and central diameter of 288 mm (14 in). Of African origin and originally played in religious ritual, it is now only played by popular music ensembles.
chicharra
Chicharra is a rhythmic, Cuban folk percussion instrument that is effectually similar to a pair of carracas or noisemakers. First documented by Fernando Ortiz in the early twentieth century in his study of Afrocuban instruments, Los Instrumentos de la Música Afrocubana. A chicharra consists of a pronged, wooden wheel that is inserted into a flexible wooden crank from which dangle two metallic lumps. One can shake the instrument with either one or two hands, causing the teeth of the wheel to move successively in concert with the dangling weights and to vibrate forcefully.

chiquichaca
A Cuban folk percussion instrument first observed in 1984 in the province of Pinar del Río, where its use was limited to the a group called “Vladimir Ilich Lenin” from the Cooperative for the Production of Livestock in the municipality of Mantua. Produces rhythm in the same vein as maracas. Fixtured to a metallic ring roughly 270 mm (12 in) in diameter and 10 mm (0.5 in) in thickness are sixteen small metallic weights, each distanced from the other at 6 mm (approx. 0.25 in). Sound is produced when the instrument is shaken, causing the weights to collide into each other and into the ring.

chunga
Cuban musical bow with out a resonator.

clave
Cuban folk percussion instrument/rhythmic idiophone said to have originated in Havana, originally from pegs used in boatbuilding. Consists of two separate cilindrical sticks of wood, whose diameter is comparable to that of the widest part of a large carrot. Constructed of very heavy, durable wood. Most commonly used woods include: jibá, ébano, carbonero, dágame, cedro, guao, majagua, ácana, jiquí, roble, roble guayo, granadillo, mangle rojo, malagueta, júcaro negro, baría, guairaje blanco, guairaje colorado, and caoba   Horse and mule bones are also used. The clave that strikes is referred to as the masculine macho, while the clave that receives the blow is the feminine hembra. To play claves, the instrumentalist holds both hands at stomach level, with the arm and the forearm forming a right angle. The hembra is held in the left hand with palm facing upward such that there is a space between the clave and the palm of the hand to allow for resonance. The macho is held by its end by the right hand, striking the hembra a little off center. A variation on standard claves is when the hembra has a small rectangle carved out at the median of its length. The hembra is held such that the hollow is oriented toward the palm of the hand, increasing the resonance of its sonerous contact with the macho. Usually played rapidly and rhythmically, in ensembles of rumba and punto y son.   Called ‘cleavers’ or ‘catacoo’ in Bahamian Junkanoo music and ‘clips’ by Youruban Nigerians.

conga drum
lit., ‘Congolese drum’. Large upright single headed skin covered barrel drum played with the hands. Open ended at the bottom, the head is made from calf, cow or mule skin, affixed with nails, with the tapered body traditionally fashioned of wood staves bound by iron hoops, but there are now fiberglass models. Three common sizes, all are the same height, but with different diameter heads and body thicknesses. Smallest / higest pitched is the quinto, (11” dia.) strongly identified with Puerto Rican plena and bomba, used as a solo instrument in the guaguanco rumba, the name derived (?) from the ‘requinto’ claranet that was used in military music. The mid-size conga is most often called the segunda (11 3/4” dia.) (seis por ocho), and sometimes ‘tres golpes,’ and commonly, simply, the ‘conga.’   The largest is the tumba or tumbadora (12” dia.).   Conga drums are also known collectivly as tumbadoras, a group of instruments played together known as a ‘set’ or ‘nest.’

Originating with Bantu speaking Africans, in the Caribbean this drum was associated with Afro-Cuban spirit cults, such as the Palo and in Santería. Became a part of Cuban popular music only in the late 30s, mostly through bands that specialized in rhumbas. Arsenio Rodriguez, a Palero, introduced it into the conjunto ensembles in the 1940’s, Machito popularized it in New York, and in Hollywood Dezi Arnez made it a fashion accessory. The drum is now a staple to the salsa percussion section. A conga player is called a conguero or congacero.

Played resting on the floor, raised with the knees to change the tone, or slung around the neck when marching at carnival. Carnival rhythm originally derived from marching music (comparsas) from Santiago de Cuba. 2/4 meter has characteristic violent accents on the 4th beat. Inspired the familiar snaking “conga line” popular with dance crowds in the 40s, still embarrassing at wedding and on cruise ships today. Originally the drums were tuned by heating the heads with a portable stove, while modern instruments are tuned with lug keys that adjust the pressure on the drumhead.

corneta china (chinese cornet) or trompeta china
Double reeded (Oboe-like), shrill sounding metalic instrument of Chinese origin played at Cuba’s carnival.   Eastern Cuban folk sextets playing son still use the instrument occassionally.

cornetin
A small trumpet mentioned in reference to Cuban contradanzas.

cuatro
A small hollow bodied folk guitar found in Spain, the Caribbean and South America. Instrument closely identified with Puerto Rico, esp. ‘jibaro’, or rural country music. Here a typical instrument has 4 pairs of strings and one ‘chanterelle’, or highest pitched single string, but exists also in 8 and 10 string configurations. Throughout much of South America has 4 strings, as it does in Trinidad and Carriacou. In Surinam called a ‘kwatro’.

cuchara
Teaspoon(s) used like drumsticks by Cuban rumba groups, usually hit against a wooden board, or just about anything handy. In Colombia, wooden kitchen spoons played like castanets.

cucharas
Spoons used a s substitutes for the clave or palitos (“sticks”) when playing rumba.

diente de arado
Cuban folk, idiophonic percussion instrument. Steel part of a farm plow that has been separated from the rod but otherwise unaltered. The musician can be seated or standing, grasping the point of the plow with one hand and a small metallic rod with the other. The plow is struck at its widest and most centered spot. Usually played in ensemble with conga, bembé, yuka, and in unison with íyesa drums at the Santa Bárbara cathedral in the province of Sancti Spíritus. Also observed in the province of Matanzas. Serves to conduct the ensemble and occasionally substitutes in place of the guataca.   In the past, this instrument was referred to by the generic names that encompassed all metallic tools cum musical instruments in Cuban folk music: gangarria and campana. However, the instrument came to be referred to as eitherreja , muela de arado, or diente de arado. Present terminology derives from form and appearance: diente means “tooth,” muela means “molar,” arado means “steel,” and reja means “plowshare.” Originally used by slaves from subsahara Africa to preserve cultural and religious traditions but became a part of secular music as well.

ekón
Cuban folk percussion instrument similar to agogo and ogán, which are all steel tools cum instruments from central and western subsahara Africa. Falls into the category of hierros, or steel work tools that have been transformed into instruments. Played in ensemble with biankomeko drums in Abakuá societies of Cuba.

ekue or ekué or fragayar
Handheld Cuban friction drum used in Abakua ritual.

ekueñón
Handheld Cuban drum, played with the hands, and used in Abakua ritual. Called the ‘voice searcher’ and seldom played.

ekwé
Log drum from Ibo Nigerian people, having two tones and played with either wooden sticks or a beater headed with rubber. In Cub a rubbed sacred drum of Abakuá.

empegó
Handheld Cuban drum, played with the hands, and used in Abakua ritual. Called the ‘order drum’

enkómo
A set of three drums used in Cuban Abakuá ritual. First and largest drum is the deep toned opiabá, the kuchiyeremá and the binkomé. Slonimsky says, “A small Cuban drum.”

erikundi
Rhythmic Cuban folk percussion instrument. Often consisting of a handle atop a hollow, cone-shaped gourd that has been woven with plant fiber and filled with small, hard objects. Played in pairs, with the sharper member referred to as the macho (male) or primero (first) and the more bass-heavy member as hembra (female) or segundo (second). Although the form and appearance of the instrument are entirely dependent on the artisan, certain elements are present in all or most erikundi. The bottom end is always closed, to prevent the sonerous filling from escaping. It can be a receptacle woven of plant fiber with a bottom from a gourd, or one with a weave of both plant fiber and wire with a bottom either from a gourd or newly constructed out of plywood. The plywood variation is the most common. The filling of the erikundi is varied but is often a mixture of pebbles, seeds, bottle caps, and pieces of metal. The erikundi is played by rhythmically shaking the instrument up and down with its handle. Originated in the biankomeko ensembles performed during religious festivals of the abakuá peoples in Cuba.

fotutu
Pre-colonial indigenous people’s Cuban conch shell horn.

frenos
Metal car or truck circular brake drum played with metal rods and used as a percussion instrument in Cuba’s carnival.

galleta
A bass drum used by gonga groups in Santiago, Cuba, derived from the military instrument, yet narrower than the bombo from Havana.

garabato
A Cuban farm tool cum musical instrument. A wooden stick whose lower edge has been trimmed angularly to aid farm laborers in removing weeds. Usually an ensemble instrument, the garabato is played by pounding its flat end into the soil or another sonerous surface to provide a rhythmic accompaniment to the chants of passing peddlers. Argeliers León documented his observation of the use of the garabato as a solo instrument in the early 1950’s , describing a “Congolese elder with a very small garabato at an altar with a chant of his own.” Also referred to as lungowa.

gua or gua-gua
Cuban idiophone made from a hollow length of bamboo, mounted on a stand and played with palito (sticks).

guagua
Hollowed our tree trunk or large bamboo section,hit with sticks and used in rumba. Anthology of Afro-Cuban Music CD booklet says it had a tin drumhead.

guamo
Cuban natural trumpet, sound made by bowing into this conch shell.

guano
Indigionous Cuban bone flute, one of the few known instruments of the Arawak people who became extinct in Cuba with the conquest of the Spanish.

guataca
Farm tool (hoe) metal blade cum Cuban folk percussion instrument. Originally used for digging, consisting of a sharp-edged rectangular steel plate attached to a wooden pole. As an instrument, the pole and the handle are removed from the steel plate. The musician slips one thumb through the hole vacated by the handle while resting the plate on the palm of the hand. The center of the plate is struck with a spike or metal bar. Characterized by a brilliant and penetrating sound that fluctuates between medium-high and high frequencies and distinguishes it within an ensemble. Played in ensemble with the following instruments: arará, bembé, conga, dundún, gagá, gangá, güiro, kinfuiti, makuta, nagó, palo, radá, tanbourin, tonadas, trinitarian, tumba francesa and yuka. Occasionally referred to as campana (bell) because of its similarly brilliant timbre. Referred to as reja or agogo in the province of Pinar del Río, where it usually accompanies yuka drums. Referred to by Haitian ensembles in Cuba as sanbá and wou. Other names include azadón ,azada, ngongui and ‘hierro’, the latter a term also used to descibe the entire class of struck household and farm implements used in Cuban music.

guiro, güira or guayo
Cuban, Brazilian, Mexican, Dominican and Puerto Rican notched oval hollow gourd scraper played with a short stick or metal pick, usually by the vocalist. Originally of folk origin the Instrument now used by modern ensembles worldwide in a variety of Latin musics.

In Cuba probably originated with Bantu people slaves with possible Amerindian influences and can describe both a scraper and a shaker made from a pumpkin or squash gourd, the neck of the gourd sometimes used as a handle. As a scraper the surface is notched and raked with a wooden stick and struck on its flat surfaces like a clave. As a shaker the gourd can be covered in a variety of seeds of different sizes, the most common seeds are taken from the following plants: maté, guacalote, jaboncillo, cayajabo, flamboyán, and ojos de buey.   To play the instrument, one grips it by the neck and shakes while knocking the bottom with the other hand. Usually played in groups of three, with each güiro differing in size. The small güiro is generally 368 mm in length (17 in), with diameter of neck at 68 mm (3.2 in), and central diameter of 182 mm (9 in). The medium güiro averages in measure to 387 mm in length (19 in), with neck 83 mm in diameter (4 in) and central diameter of 208 mm (10 in). The large güiro averages 395 mm in length (19 in), with neck diameter of 100 mm (4.9 in), and central diameter of 288 mm (14 in). Played in santería festivals. In Guantanamo can describes a Metal scrapper. Also referred to as agbe, calabazo, guayo and chequeré. In changui music called guayo or rayo. Literally ‘güiro’ means ‘gourd.’

Also called a güayo in Puerto Rico. In the Dominican Republic, a metallic version is called a güira or guayano or guayo. Used primarily in merengue, the cylindrical pointed scraper, originally a kitchen grater, is usually made from punched tin, about 5” in diameter, has a handle and is struck and scraped with a small metal trident, fork or Afro-comb. Early Dominican folk ensembles used what was at hand, from a hard fruit that was notched to simple kitchen scrapers.

In Cape Verde a metal strip called a ferrinho is scraped with a wooden peg for rhythm to accompany funana music. St. Croix’s Scratch Bands take their name from the characteristic scraping sound of the güiro, here called a “squash”. In Santeria ceremonial music the name can also describe a gourd idiophone covered with beads.

hierro
While descibing the entire class of metal struck household and farm implements used in Cuban music, most ofter refers to the guataca and sanmartin.

idiophones
The term “idiophone” refers to a numerous variety of instruments in the musical discourse of Cuban folclórico-popular. Common household and work tools, such as the spoon, the machete, and the frying pan, are transformed into idiophonic instruments upon vibration or contact with another surface. The majority of Cuban idiophones are played with drum-like blows and strokes that are direct and/or indirect. A few examples of this diverse sub-class of idiophones include claves, catá, guataca, cencerro, maracas, and güiro, among several others. Particular names of idiophones might reference utility (cajónes or “boxes”), form and appearance (campanas or “bells”), structure (güiro or “gourd”), substance (hierros or “irons”), or onamatopoetics (chachá). When idiophones are played in pairs, there is a tendency to sexualize the parts of the instruments (hembra y macho or “female and male”), and the signifying term might be used in plural to designate each part (las claves ) or in the singular to identify the unifying constituent (la clave).

itón, itones
Pair of small sticks used to play Cuban Abakuá cult drums. lit: ‘wooden sticks’ in Efik language, a people from Calabar, an Easten state in Nigeria.

 

itótele
Double headed skin covered wooden batá drum, the medium sized one i” the middle drum in the set of three.

iyesá drums
Ensemble of four sacred Cuban drums, caja, segunde, tercero and bajo, used in the cult and celebratory music of the Iyesás, of Nigerian origin. Sticks play these skin covered wooden drums except the bajo, which is beaten with the hands.

jícara de jobá
Cuban folk percussion instrument. Consists of a wooden or metallic tub filled with water, in which dried and hollow gourds (calabashes) are afloat. Played by striking the calabashes with little wooden rods that measure between 300-400 mm in length (14-19 in) and are constructed from the following woods: guayabo, racabarriga, and mamoncillo. Anywhere from one to three gourds can be afloat in the water, with the size of the tub varying in proportion to this number. Played in funeral rites within the cult of arará,

jun
Small cylindrical drum, with a nailed on skin head, the body painted with red, white, green and blue stripes, and played with a stick. Part of the quartet of percussion used in Cuban Arará ritual.

juncito
Similar to the Junguedde, one of the next largest of the Cuban Arará ritual drums, with a slightly conical shape. One of a group of four, played with two stick.

junga
Largest of the Cuban Arará ritual drums, with a slightly conical shape. One of a group of four, played with a stick and the left hand in a largely improvisational manner.

junguedde
Next to largest of the Cuban Arará ritual drums, with a slightly conical shape. One of a group of four, played with two stick.
kinfwiti, kinfuiti
Friction drum in both Brazilian and Cuban music of Congo origin. The small, hollow, skin covered wooden drum has an open bottom end where a chord or leather stip is affixed to the bottom of the drumhead and pulled to change the tone.

kuchiyeremá, kuchi-yeremá
Handheld small skin cover wooden drum in the enkómo set of three drums used in Cuban Abakuá ritual. The other drums are the opiabá and the binkomé. Approx. 25 cm long.
laud, laoud
Arab derived lute from Spain, having a pear shaped body supporting 6 courses (pairs) of metal strings. Name and form derived from l’ud. Arrived in Cuba in the Colonial era as a high pitched mandolin-like instrument with 14 (?) metal strings, having a sound like a mellow tres or an italian mandolin, a leading player being Barbarito Torres. Common in guajiro and campesino music

llanta
A Cuban folk percussion instrument. A llanta is a tire, typically from a tractor or a bus. To play the llanta, one stands on two feet with the tire on the left shoulder. One hand supports the tire in place while the other employs a spike or a thin steel rod to beat rhythms. A wire mesh is sometimes passed across one side of the tire to cover the orifice and the instrument is strung so that it hangs down, thereby amplifying the sound. Can be played in counts of three or higher. The tractor tire is given particular tamboral preference in Camagüey. An ensemble instrument, the llanta functions to enrich the polyrhythmic sound that it helps to dev elop and to conduct the ensemble.

lungowa
A Cuban farm tool cum musical instrument. A wooden stick whose lower edge has been trimmed angularly to aid farm laborers in removing weeds. Usually an ensemble instrument, the lungowa is played by pounding its flat end into the soil or another sonerous surface to provide a rhythmic accompaniment to the chants of passing peddlers. Argeliers León documented his observation of the use of the lungowa as a solo instrument in the early 1950’s , describing a “Congolese elder with a very small garabato at an altar with a chant of his own.” More commonly referred to as garabato.

mahohuacán
Indigionous Cuban drum, one of the few known instruments of the Arawak people who became extinct in Cuba with the conquest of the Spanish.

maraca
Probably the most common percussion instrument of the Southern Hemisphere, maracas are found on most islands of the Caribbean and throughout South and Central America.   A shaker, the instrument is played in pairs, made from small, spherical hollowed-out gourds (calabashes), with a wooden handle attached, filled with a variety of pebble-like substances.

In Cuba one maraca is larger and heavier than the other and filled with almost any small hard object, most often peony and mustard seeds or pieces of lead. The lighter maraca produces a sharper sound, generally played with the right hand, referred to as hembra (female). The heavier maraca , the macho (male), is held in the left hand, having a subtle bass-like function. In performance, players can grip maracas by the sphere, the handle, or somewhere in between and shake rhythmically.   Played in ensembles of changüí, melcocha, órgano oriental, son-montuno, and sucu-sucu music.

In Colombia maracas are made from the gourd like fruit of the totumo tree, filled with chiras seeds and peppered with small holes. Can also be pebble filled. Probably of pre-Columbian origin.

maraquitas de guira cimarrona
Small shakers tied to the wrist of caja (large drum) player in a Afro-Cuban Yuka ensemble, made from hollowed calabash tree fruit called nkembi.

marimba, marímbula
A Cuban folk percussion instrument. Referred to as marimba in the eastern provinces of Holguín and Guantánamo but more commonly known as marímbula. “Consists of a rectangular wooden box constructed from white pine or cedar wood with anywhere from three to eight steel reeds connected to a slab that is fixtured to one of the long sides of the box. Underneath the slab is an aperture that can be in the shape of a circle, triangle, heart, or semicircle. Average dimensions of the box are a follows: 570 mm (23 in) length, 210 mm (10 in) width, and 420 mm (20 in) height with a triangular aperture 160 mm (7 in) in length and 70 mm (3 in) in height. The reeds are not uniform in size, varying from 55 mm (2 in) to 95 mm (4.5 in) in length. To play the marímbula, the instrumentalist sits on top of it with legs apart for stability. One hand knocks against the side of the box while the fingers on the other hand tap against the reeds. Marímbulas are played in everything from simple duos with maracas, güiro, and guitar to sextet and septet son ensembles. Referred to as marimba in the eastern provinces of Holguín and Guantánamo.
maruga
Rhythmic Cuban folk percussion instrument. Often constructed of a hollow metallic cone that is filled with heavy pellets and attached to a handle. Played in pairs.   While there are many modifications of the instrument, there are a few common elements between all marugas. Most marugas are constructed from sheets of tin, although galvanized zinc is often used. The sheet metal is punctured to create a border of alternating, symmetrical points. or a variety of patterns. The sheet is then folded into a cone. For a softer maraca sort of sound, the conic receptacles are filled with seeds of corn, begonias, or aroma plants. For a stronger sound, pebbles are used, although some instrumentalists prefer wheat for a more compact and resonant sound. For a yet stronger and metallic sound, rivets of copper wire are used. The instruments are shaken either by the handle, the cone, or alternations of the cone and the handle. Also referred to as chachá and chench.

mayohuacán
Amerindian slit log drum from Cuba.

muela de arado
Cuban folk, idiophonic percussion instrument. Steel part of a farm plow that has been separated from the rod but otherwise unaltered. The musician can be seated or standing, grasping the point of the plow with one hand and a small metallic rod with the other. The plow is struck at its widest and most centered spot. Usually played in ensemble with conga, bembé, yuka, and in unison with íyesa drums at the Santa Bárbara cathedral in the province of Sancti Spíritus. Also observed in the province of Matanzas. Serves to conduct the ensemble and occasionally substitutes in place of the guataca.   In the past, this instrument was referred to by the generic names that encompassed all metallic tools cum musical instruments in Cuban folk music: gangarria and campana. However, the instrument came to be referred to as eitherreja , muela de arado, or diente de arado. Present terminology derives from form and appearance: diente means “tooth,” muela means “molar,” arado means “steel,” and reja means “plowshare.” Originally used by slaves from subsahara Africa to preserve cultural and religious traditions but became a part of secular music as well.

mula
One of the drums used in the yuka, a pre-rumba Cuban folk dance of Bantu origin.

okónkolo
Smallest drum in the Cuban batá drums ensemble that takes it’s cues from the larger iyá drum.

olivas sonoras
Cuban necklaces of Amerindian origin that function as rattles. Olivas are small shells, sometimes carved, that produce a pleasing A natural tone.

omele
Drums used in Shango rituals of Yoruban cults of Brazil, Cuba and Trinidad.

opiabá
First and largest drum in the enkómo set of three drums used in Cuban Abakuá ritual. Deep toned.   The other drums are the kuchiyeremá and the binkomé.

órgano oriental
Cuban term for a mechanical crank organ used in popular dance music, of french origin and first brought to the city of Manzanillo by Francisco de Borbolla in the late nineteenth century. Still common.

paila, pailas
Cuban timbales.

paila criolla or timbales criollos
A homemade Cuban percussion instrument originally made from cooking pots, common to nineteenth century street (murgas) bands. Eventually it was refined and modified into a ‘proper’ drum and incorporated into the danzón orchestras to replace the tympani and become the timbales.   A set of shallow, single headed kettledrums on a single footstand.

palito
Describes ostinati (continually repeated musical phrases or rhythms) accompanying clave in rumba performance, as well as the sticks that play the

quijada or quijada de burro
‘Jawbone’ in Spanish. Afro-Cuban scraper made from the lower jaw of a mule, donkey (burro) or horse, with the teeth attached. Played by old time son bands in Cuba, Son Jarocho musicians in Veracruz State, Mexico and by coastal Peruvian Blacks.

quinto
High pitched small conga drum played in Cuban rumba and conga music. – the lead improvisational instrument. In the past the drum head was tuned by heating over a fire, while modern instruments have pegs. Also called requinto.

reja
Farm tool or ploughshare used as a folk percussion instrument in Cuba. Originally used for digging, consisting of a sharp-edged rectangular steel plate attached to a wooden pole. As an instrument, the pole and the handle are removed from the steel plate. The musician slips one thumb through the hole vacated by the handle while resting the plate on the palm of the hand. The center of the plate is struck with a railroad spike or large nail. Can be played standing or sitting. Characterized by a brilliant and penetrating sound that fluctuates between medium-high and high frequencies and distinguishes it within an ensemble. Played in ensemble with the following instruments: arará, bembé, conga, dundún, gagá, gangá, güiro, kinfuiti, makuta, nagó, palo, radá, tanbourin, tonadas, trinitarian, tumba francesa and yuka. Most commonly referred to as guataca. Occasionally referred to as campana (bell) because of its similarly brilliant timbre. Referred to as reja or agogo in the province of Pinar del Río, where it usually accompanies yuka drums. Referred to by Haitian ensembles in Cuba as sanbá and wou. Also referred to as azadón ,azada, or ngongui. One of the percussion instruments used in ritual makuta dance music. At least two or three in most conga groups.

sanbá
Farm tool cum Cuban folk percussion instrument. Originally used for digging, consisting of a sharp-edged rectangular steel plate attached to a wooden pole. As an instrument, the pole and the handle are removed from the steel plate. The musician slips one thumb through the hole vacated by the handle while resting the plate on the palm of the hand. The center of the plate is struck with a spike. Can be played standing or sitting. Characterized by a brilliant and penetrating sound that fluctuates between medium-high and high frequencies and distinguishes it within an ensemble. Played in ensemble with the following instruments: arará, bembé, conga, dundún, gagá, gangá, güiro, kinfuiti, makuta, nagó, palo, radá, tanbourin, tonadas, trinitarian, tumba francesa and yuka. Most commonly referred to as guataca. Occasionally referred to as campana (bell) because of its similarly brilliant timbre. Referred to as reja or agogo in the province of Pinar del Río, where it usually accompanies yuka drums. Referred to by Haitian ensembles in Cuba as sanbá and wou. Also referred to as azadón ,azada, or ngongui.

sanmartin
Cuban hand-held tempered iron sheet, that produces two notes when hit with an iron rod. Formed by moulding the sheet into a curve, but not joined and a visible space between the edges. Of Nigerian origin, played by conga street ensembles and a part of Iyesá ceremonial music.
sartena, sartene or sartén
Cuban folk percussion instrument. Falls into the category of hierros, or common metallic tools that function as instruments in the Cuban folk tradition. A sartén is a frying pan: a circular base with a two-inch rim along its circumference, typically constructed of metal with a handle attached to the exterior. Sometime they are hand held, while often two or more sartenes are strapped by their handles to a block of wood, such that the bottom of the pan faces upward. The pans are selected so that their pitches differ by majors 3, 4, and 5. Wooden handles are often replaced with metallic handles to provide more resistance. The wooden block is often painted but may be left natural. Sartenes are played mostly in ensemble with congas. As with most hierros, sartenes function to enhance and conduct a polyrhythmic ensemble.

songo
Variant of the ‘son’ named by Juan Formell as performed by his Van Van Orchestra in Cuba, beginning in the late 60s. A loose mix of son, tumbaos, jazz, rock and various Caribbean rhythms.

tambor de tahona or tajona
Cuban small drum made from a cedar barrel with a goatskin covering one end and beaten with the hands. Tahona also describes the Cuban folk rumba variation introduced by emigrant slaves after the Haitian revolution, originally performed in Santiago de Cuba, later popular in Alto Songo, La Maya and Ti Arribe. Drums were at least played in pairs in this theatrical style, both the style and instruments rare in Cuba today.

tambora
Tamboras, synonymous with bombos, is a generic term for a variety of Cuban drums that, more often than not, have two membrane surfaces for drumming. Usually constructed from cedar, pine, plywood, or galvanized zinc, and goat hide, there are eleven varieties of form and dimension:

1) Hollow cilinder with two leather membranes nailed to the drum on either side
2) Hollow cilinder with two leathers clenched by a hoop and braces of rope adjusted by braces
3) Hollow cilinder with two leathers clenched by a system of hoops and keys
4) Conic tube with two leathers clenched by a hoop and braces of rope, kept in place by crossing straps
5) Barrel-shaped cilinder with leather clenched by a system of rings and keys
6) Barrel-shaped cilinder with leather nailed on
7) Conic-shaped cilinder with leather nailed on
8) Conic-shaped cilinder with leather attached by a ring
9) Circular, tambourine-esque drum with two leathers nailed on
10) Circular, tambourine-esque drum clenched by hoops and ligatures
11) Circular, tambourine-esque drum with two leathers attached by metallic hoops

tambores abarrilados
Cuban barrel-shaped drums (tumbadoras or congas) of Congoleses origin used in rumbas and comparsas.

tambores biankomeko
Cuban folk drums. Consists of a taut leather fastened to a hollow wooden cilinder by a coil of rope that is tightened by wedges and by braces that bind to a strip near the top of the drum. The cilinder is constructed from cedar, the wedges from hard woods such as ácana and majagua. Played in groups of four, one of the tambores biankomeko is much larger than the other three, which are nearly uniform in size. Collectively, the three smaller drums are referred to as enkomo, individually called obi apá, kuchi yeremá, and biankomé. The large drum is called the bonkó enchemiyá. The large drum approaches heights of 755 mm (36 in), while the three small drums are usually 255 mm (12 in) in height. The smaller drums are attached to a strap that hangs from the left shoulder, while the larger drum rest on the floor. Played in ensemble with cencerro or ekón, itones, and maracas or erikundi.

tambores de bembé
Bembé is the Cuban term for celebrations and festivals to please gods of the Nigerian pantheon, also venerated by practitioners of santería. Although a Cuban folk drum, the technique of constructing a tambores de bembé is very similar to African construction of similar drums. Usually made from avocado wood and hide of cow, goat, or bull, the drum varies tremendously in size depending on its region of origin. Played in groups of three, with each drum differing in height and diameter, the largest drum can stand 400-800 mm (19-39 in) tall and measure 255-430 mm (12-21 in) in diameter, while the smallest might stand 285-540 mm (14-26 in) tall and measure 210-580 mm (10-28 in) in diameter. The largest drum is called the mayor, the medium-sized drum is mula, and the smallest is cachimbo. Usually played in religious festivals and carnivals, the mayor is always positioned in the center of the bembé ensemble, with the mula to the left and the cachimbo to the right. All drums are usually played with alternations of drumsticks and hand knocks. There are six variations of form of tambores de bembé:

1) cilindrical, conic-, or barrel-shaped tube with leather membrane nailed to the top
2) cilinder with two leather membranes, one nailed onto each end
3) cilinder or barrel with two leathers fastened by a cord of rope and zig-zagging braces made of hemp that bind the two drumheads, reinforced by cris-crossing straps
4) cilindrical, conic-, or barrel-shaped tube with leather clenched by a hoop that is maintained in place by a hemp rope that zig-zags across the rim of the drumhead
5) cilindrical, conic-, or barrel-shaped tube with leather clenched by a system of rings and pegs
6) cilindrical or conic-shaped tube with leather stretched across the top by ropes and bracs that bind to a strip that is punctuated with wedges.
singular: tambor de bembé.

tambores de conga
Early version of the conga drums used in Cuban caranaval music (conga de comparsa).

tambores de makuta
A Cuban folk percussion instrument. A standard for a tambor de makuta is a hollow cedar cilinder with a taut leather stretched across the top. Usually, goat leather is used. Five common variations of the standard are: 1) the leather is nailed to the drum, 2) the leather is clenched by rings and metallic rods to provide tension, 3) the drum is barrel-shaped and the leather is nailed to the top, 4) the drum is barrel-shaped and the leather is attached by rings and rods, and 5) the leather is pulled by rope and hemp and stretched taut by vertical braces that wind a tight coil around the drumhead that is adjusted with palm wedges that are roughly 40 mm (9 in) thick.   The drummer attaches the instrument to a cord which hangs around his/her waist, causing the drum to lean forward, away from the drummer. The drummer alternates striking the drumhead and tapping the side.

“Makuta” is the Bantú term for music from Congolese festivals that have historically occurred in cathedrals. Tambores de makuta are usually played in ensembles of two or three, usually accompanied by an idiophone such as nkembi maracas.

tambores de olokun
Of African origin, tambores de olokun are Cuban folk drums that are played in ensemble with each other, usually accompanying songs of Egguado or Egbado origin. Sometimes played in ensemble with other membranophones and idiophones, such as agogo. Consisting of a hollow wooden cilinder, usually of cedar or avocado, with a taut leather stretched across the top by a hoop of rope that is maintained in position by braces of hemp. Venison and goat hide are most often used. The drums are usually painted white, black, or blue with oil paint. The largest of the three drums is the olokun, measuring 810 mm (40 in) in height and 370 mm (18 in) in diameter. The oddúa is the smallest drum, standing 460 mm (22 in) tall and 245 mm (11 in) in diameter. The medium two drums are collectively referred to as yewá and are similar in form and size, usually 540 mm (24 in) tall and 245 mm (11 in) in diameter. Drumsticks are constructed from guayabo or rascabarriga wood and vary in size relative to the drum. The olokun is played by attaching a strap to the drum and hanging the strap from the performer’s waist, such that the drum hangs forward and the performer is free to use both hands or combinations of hand and drumstick to strike the center and border of the drumhead. The other drums are all played seated. One yewa is played with both hands and the other with a combination of drumstick and hand, while the oddua is usually played with drumsticks alone. Of the four drums, only three are played at the same time. Usually, both yewa set the rhythm of the ensemble while the oddúa and olokun , whose function is improvisational, trade off. The ensemble is usually led by the yewa that is played with bare hands. singular: tambor de olokun.

tambores de tonadas trinitarias
A Cuban folk percussion drum, played in groups of three. Consists of three separate hollow cilinders, each with a taut goat leather stretched across the top that is bound by rope and metal braces that bind to a strip. Wooden wedges punctuate the rope binding and allow for a tight coil. The three drums differ in size and are referred to, in order of descending size, as bombo, marcador, and quinto . The average length and diameter of the bombo is 330 mm (16 in) and 230 mm (11 in); the marcador is 300 mm (14 in) and 190-230 mm (8-11 in); and the quinto is 290 mm (14 in) and 180-230 in (8-11 in). Tambores de tonadas trinitarias can be played in a variety of ways. If the instrumentalist is seated, then the drum is gripped with the knees. If the instrumentalist is standing, then the instrument hangs from a strap on the left shoulder. The drums can be struck on the top leathers or on the sides, with fingers, knuckles, fist, or palms. Played in ensemble with guataca, muela, and güiro.

tambores de tumba francesa or tumba Francesa
Tambores de tumba francesa are folk drums that were introduced into Cuba by Haitian immigrants at the end of the 18th c., as servants arrived with fleeing French refugees of the slave rebellions. “Tumba” is a Bantú term for the drum from Central Africa, while “Francesa” references Haiti’s French derived Creole culture. Relatively rare, perhaps because of their antiquity, the drums are still found in the easternmost regions of Cuba. There dances associated with the ensemble are the babú, grasimá, jubá and the masón.

Played in pairs or groups of three, each drum consists of a hollow wooden cilinder with a goat hide stretched across the top by a ring that is held in place by a zig-zagging brace of rope and tuned by hook-shaped wedges. Although cedar is the most common wood for construction, other strong woods such as ayúa, caoyán, and avocado are also used. Each individual drum has a name that references its relative size and function. The largest drum, standing 800-820 mm (39-41 in) tall and 530-1045 mm (26-51 in) in diameter, is most often referred to as premier, also known as maman (mamá), redoubler (redublé, redoublé), repiquer (repiqué) or quinto .   The other two drums are collectively called boulá (bulá). The larger of the boulá , 790-800 mm (38-40 in) tall and 420-500 mm (20-24 in) in diameter, is called fondo or cortador. The smaller boulá is 760-800 mm (37-39 in) tall and 410-500 mm (20-24 in) in diameter and goes by the names petit, bebé, llamador, bulá-segón and segón. Played in tumba francesa ensembles, the drums can be stood up or laid horizontally on the floor or mounted on a stand. The drums are played by swift knocks to the leather membrane, usually with alternating hands.   sing: tambor de tumba francesa.

tambores nagó
An antiquated Cuban folk instrument, tambores nagó have more or less disappeared in contemporary time. Consisting of a wooden cilinder or cone with a taut leather stretched across the top, a tambor nagó can vary in five different ways, according to the method of attaching the leather:

1) by braces of rope that bind to a coil that circles around the circumference of the drum and is punctuated by wedges
2) by a hoop and braces of rope that bind to wooden pegs
3) by a wire hoop pulled tight by wire braces
4) by wooden pegs nailed into the leather and reinforced by a rope that borders the drumhead
5) by metallic rings and pegs

The drums are usually constructed from strong, hard woods such as cedar, avocado, and majagua. Usually played in groups of two or three, with the instrumentalist seated and gripping the drum with both knees. Played in ensembles of three, accompanied by a bell. singular: tambor nagó.

tambores radá
Introduced to Cuba by Haitian immigrants, tambores radá consist of a set of three individual drums usually played in radá ensembles with each other and chachá, hierro, guataca, chequeré, and catá. The name tambor radá is a generic name that refers to a variety of drums that vary slightly in their method of construction and have several different names. The largest of the three, standing 870-1240 mm (43-61 in) tall and 230-310 mm (11-15 in) in diameter, goes by the names of maman, mayor, radá, vodú, dahomé, and lwa. The medium drum is the segón or leguedé, standing 490-765 mm (24-37 in) tall and 160-250 mm (7-12 in) in diameter. The smallest drum is referred to as segón, leguedé, and boulá, standing 590-800 mm (29-39 in) tall and 170-250 mm (8-12 in) in diameter. To play the large drum, the performer stands with the drum resting on the floor. For the smaller two drums, the performer is seated with the drum between his/her knees. The center of the leather membrane is struck with two drumsticks. Usually constructed from light-weight woods such as yagruma, almácigo, and algarrobo , and cow hide, there are eight variations of a tambor radá:

1) cilinder with leather membrane nailed to the top by wooden pegs
2) cilinder with leather attached by a hoop of rope that is maintained in place by zig-zagging braces of rope that bind to wooden pegs
3) cilinder with leather clenched by a hoop and braces of rope that bind the drumhead to wooden pegs
4) cilinder with leather clenched by a system of hoops and metallic keys
5) conic form with leather nailed to the top by wooden pegs
6) conic form with leather clenched by a hoop and zig-zagging braces of rope that bind to wooden pegs
7) conic form with leather clenched by a system of hoops and metallic keys
8) cup-shaped drum with leather nailed to the top by wooden pegs
singular: tambor radá.

tambores yuka [yuka drums]
A Cuban folk drum of African origin in Colonial times. Played in groups of three, tambores yuka consist of three separate wooden cilinders, each hollow and covered at the top by a taut leather that is nailed down. Each drum differs in size. The caja, the largest of the three ranges in length from 990-1350 mm (47-66 in),. Medium sized drum is called mula, played with a regular steady rhythm recalling the gate of the animal. The length of the smallest, cachimbo, ranges from 1000-1390 mm (48-68 in).   The drummer grips the instrument between both legs while standing. One can either employ both hands to beat atop the leather or beat with just one while the other taps against the side with a wooden stick or mallet.   Played in yuka ensembles, usually along with a cencerro, guataca, or reja de arado. sing: tambor yuka.

tanbourin
Tanbourin is the Spanish word for “tambourine.” Believed to have been brought to Cuba by Haitian immigrants, the tambourine is widely used throughout the Americas. The tambourine appears similar to a circular box, without a bottom side. The side rim of the instrument, usually wooden, is punctuated by jingle bells or bottle caps. Woods used for construction of the tambourine include plywood, naranja agria, almácigo, avocado, mamoncillo, and jinipa. The top of the instrument is essentially a drum, consisting of the taut hide of cow or goat. The tambourine can be played seated or standing, held by a thumb-hole in the rim with the leather membrane facing away from the instrumentalist, who jingles the bells by shaking the instrument while beating the leather for rhythm. The tambourine can also be played seated, in which case the instrument is usually gripped with the knees and knocked with one or two hands. In Cuba, the tambourine is usually played in ensemble with two or three other tambourines, guataca, violin or accordion in the provinces of Ciego de Avila, Camagüey, Las Tuna, Holguín, Santiago de Cuba, and Guantánamo.

timbale or timbal criollo
Pair of small ( usually 13” – 14” dia.) single skinned metal frame drums supported by a tripod stand and played with drum sticks while standing. Drums are high pitched and usually tuned a fourth apart. Typical set up includes two tuned cowbells, the larger one called the mambo and the smaller, the chacha. Sometimes a cymbal and/or a woodblock are also attached. Drum also known as ‘pailas’ and an even smaller versions exists, called timbalitos. ‘Timbal’ is also the name for large standing Surinamese drum.

In the 40s became one of Latin music’s showcase instruments via the evolving charanga groups and the worldwide mambo craze. All surfaces, including rims and the sides of the drums are utilized in producing a wide range of sound. Instrumental breaks known as ‘cierres’ give a player his chance to shine. Player is a timbalero and the best known timbalero is Tito Puente. Instrument is now a salsa / Latin music staple.

timbalitos
A high pitched mini timbales set that often accompanies the regular timbales.

tingotalango or tumbadera
A musical bow from Cuba, made from flexing a twig, tying it to a thin piece of sheetmetal or dried palm-leaf sheet covering a hole with a chord or wire. The sound is controled by bending the twig with one hand and strinking the wire/chord with a stick.

tres
A Cuban guitar with nine, or three sets of doubled or tripled strings. Used primarily in guajiro music and of the Afro-Cuban septetos, son and son montuno. One of the great early players was Isaac Oviedo during 1920s and ’30s and championed by Arsenio Rodriguez in the Cuban conjunto. Introduced in the States/New York, late 60s/early 70s, during the Cuban tipico revival.

tumbadora
Cuban skin-covered barrel-shaped low pitched drum, and formed like the barrel it evolved from, with staves and bound with metal hoops. Originally tuned with heat, modern versions have keys. Usually beatten with the hands, played propped on a stand or carried using a neckstrap.

tumbandera or tingotalango
A Cuban folk musical bow, originally a deep hole, covered in palm fibre/leaves, a solo string tied to a tree branch. The string is either plucked or hit with wooden sticks. Associated with nengón music.

viola
A Cuban percussion instrument consisting of a solid wooden hoop with two wooden rods protruding from its sides and adorned with ribbons. The look is derived from the Ethiopian lyre, first seen on the island at the end of the 18th c.

wou
Farm tool cum Cuban folk percussion instrument. Originally used for digging, consisting of a sharp-edged rectangular steel plate attached to a wooden pole. As an instrument, the pole and the handle are removed from the steel plate. The musician slips one thumb through the hole vacated by the handle while resting the plate on the palm of the hand. The center of the plate is struck with a spike. Can be played standing or sitting. Characterized by a brilliant and penetrating sound that fluctuates between medium-high and high frequencies and distinguishes it within an ensemble. Played in ensemble with the following instruments: arará, bembé, conga, dundún, gagá, gangá, güiro, kinfuiti, makuta, nagó, palo, radá, tanbourin, tonadas, trinitarian, tumba francesa and yuka. Most commonly referred to as guataca. Occasionally referred to as campana (bell) because of its similarly brilliant timbre. Referred to as reja or agogo in the province of Pinar del Río, where it usually accompanies yuka drums. Referred to by Haitian ensembles in Cuba as sanbá and wou. Also referred to as azadón ,azada, or ngongui.