Needless to say, the conga drum was born in Cuba, and here at CMC.com we primarily focus on the instrument in its original cultural context. But we must remember that Cuban instruments (and particularly the conga drum) entered mainstream popular music here in the U.S. long ago. Certainly with the development of CuBop back in the 1940s with Dizzy Gillespie, Machito, Chano and Mario Bauza, the conga drum started to become known outside of Cuba. Later of course Dezi Arnaz made it a signature part of his persona, and soon white America had learned to recognize its sound and shape (as bastardized as that context may have been!). It didn’t take long for the bands of Las Vegas to add a conga player, and soon everyone from Peggy Lee to Frank Sinatra began to include conga players in their performances. Our great elders and legends Francisco Aguabella, Armando Peraza, Julito Collazo, Candido all made their living playing for American song royalty at one time or another.                                                                                                                                 

But equally as important, the sounds of Cuban percussion started to enter American R&B, and soon thereafter American funk.  If you go back and listen to all the Motown hits of the 1960s and 70s, you will be amazed at how many hit records had a conga part in them—From The Four Tops to Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, from the Temptations to Martha Reeves and the Vandellas , from Marvin Gaye toCurtis Mayfield, the conga drum was not only present, but frequently prominently featured in the mix.But the players in this music were not Cubans—they were African-Americans, and their style of conga drumming was very different. Although still employing slaps and open tones, there was very little heel-toe techniquein this style. Rather, the movements tended to be more hand-to-hand, much like Brazilian hand-drumming (go to sambamasterclass.com to see what I mean!). The Cubans are pretty much the only ones who have focused on the heel-toe as a  prominent technique, whereas the Americans were much more alternating in their sticking, and so the parts we show you here in this section come out of that tradition.