Latin Roots

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Latin Roots #23: Felix Contreras on Conga - November 15, 2012

In this 23rd installment of the Latin Roots segment, we diverge from focusing on a specific type of Latin music/ genre and instead talk about an integral and enormously popular instrument in Latin music. NPR's Alt Latino correspondent Felix Contreras is invited to discuss the history and the impact of the conga, or more properly known as the tumbadora, in Cuba and abroad. Originating from Africa, the conga became a critical instrument in Afro-Cuban religious culture. Its role in folkloric tradition would soon change when it become infused with traditional European music eliciting irresistible and harmonious tropical rhythms that helps discover one's dance talent.

Providing listeners with a small in-studio performance with the instrument, Contreras talks about the varying techniques and styles one can produce with the conga. From guaguancó to rumba and the cha-cha-chá, this percussion instrument can fundamentally generate any type of dance inducing beat. Contreras specifically cites Puerto Rican percussionist, Giovanni Hidalgo as one of the pioneers in the modern conga movement who developed an influential technique for developing speed and rhythm while playing. Overall, the conga is a key instrument in contemporary Latin as well as American music. Come join David Dye and Felix Contreras as they explore the musical evolution of an instrument that is able to produce such zesty and captivating rhythms.
  • Show Tracks:
    • Felix Contreras/ CONGA DEMO (live performance)
    • Dizzy Gillespie / MANTECA / The Complete RCA Victor Recordings
    • GIOVANNI HIDALGO / THE CONGA (Demonstration recorded for congahead.com)
  • Listen to the Playlist:
  • Playlist Tracks:
    • Afro Blue by Cal Tjader (from the Monterey Concerts album)
    • Peruchin by Poncho Sanchez
    • Gitano by Santana
    • Azteca Mozambique by Pete and Sheila Escovedo
    • Manteca by Dizzy Gillespie (featuring Chano Pozo)


Latin Roots is made possible by a grant from the Wyncote Foundation.

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