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The Aristodemos and the cajón drum

images from barga (LU) Italy

images from barga (LU) Italy

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Something new is in the air with the Barga swing band, The Aristodemos. They have been playing many more concerts this summer and some of the wear and tear is starting to make itself felt and in the most unexpected places …. the right elbow of the drummer Keane to be precise.

He has been playing the bodhrán drum for the past 30 years with a brush which gives that soft swishing skip sound that is always in the background of any Aristodemos song but that sound is gradually coming to a halt as the action of the brush across the goat skin surface of the drum is not really a natural movement. The constant twisting action of the wrist and elbow is causing damage and making it difficult for Keane to continue playing long concerts with the drum.

Working with the concept of “making medicine from poison” – turning a negative situation into a positive one, he has been looking at other ways of drumming using a more natural arm movement.

After a month of browsing through the internet he finally came up with a probable alternative and by the looks of things the sound of the Aristodemos is likely to change as the Irish bodhrán is exchanged for the Peruvian cajón.

A cajón, “box”, “crate” or “drawer”) is nominally a six sided, box-shaped percussion instrument originally from Peru, played by slapping the front or rear faces (generally thin plywood) with the hands, fingers, or sometimes various implements such as brushes, mallets, or sticks.

The player sits astride the box, tilting it at an angle while striking the head between their knees. The percussionist can play the sides with the top of their palms and fingers for additional sounds.

La passione per la musica e il piacere di lavorare su una materia viva come il legno, nasce cosi la voglia di progettare strumenti musicali e costruirli in modo totalmente artigianale, ricercando sonorità diverse dagli standard proposti dal mercato, selezionando accuratamente i materiali più adatti, cercando le geometrie migliori per ogni modello di Cajon.

La ricerca continua di nuove sonorità mi spinge anche a progettare o migliorare nuovi strumenti musicali, ampliando così le possibilità creative di chi li suona. I cajon di Alma Cajon sono due strumenti in uno; suono “snare” con la cordiera inserita, disattivandola si ottiene la sonorità del “cajon peruviano”.

I miei cajon sono studiati per essere suonati in qualsiasi genere musicale, in molte occasioni sono il perfetto sostituto della batteria, per questo costruisco solo cajon con cordiera regolabile e disinseribile.

Alcuni modelli di cajon hanno incastonati nel legno due piccoli cristalli Swarovski® … perchè i particolari contano.

Tutti i miei strumenti sono costruiti in maniera totalmente artigianale e con essenze di prima qualità certificate dal marchio SFC® per la tutela dello sfruttamento del patrimonio forestale. – Mauro Marini

The cajón is the most widely used Afro-Peruvian musical instrument since the late 18th century. Slaves of west and central African origin in the Americas are considered to be the source of the cajón drum.

The cajón was developed during the periods of slavery in coastal Peru. The instrument reached a peak in popularity by 1850, and by the end of the 19th century cajón players were experimenting with the design of the instrument by bending some of the planks in the cajón’s body to alter the instrument’s patterns of sound vibration. After slavery the cajón was spread to a much larger audience including Criollos.

Given that the cajón comes from slave musicians in the Spanish colonial Americas, there are two complementary origin theories for the instrument. It is possible that the drum is a direct descendant of a number of boxlike musical instruments from west and central Africa, especially Angola, and the Antilles. These instruments were adapted by slaves from the Spanish shipping crates at their disposal. In port cities like Matanzas, Cuba, codfish shipping crates and small dresser drawers became similar instruments.

Another theory states that slaves simply used boxes as musical instruments to subvert Spanish colonial bans on music in predominantly African areas; In this way, cajones could easily be disguised as seats or stools, thus avoiding identification as musical instruments. In all likelihood it is a combination of these factors – African origins and Spanish suppression of slave music – that led to the cajón’s creation.

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