The beginning of the Cajón, like most things is vague at best... It is said that slaves of African origin, specifically the western and central regions, were brought by boat to Peru(Lima) in the 16th and 17th centuries. Forbidden to use their traditional instruments, simple crates, drawers, spoons and any other items found were substituted for musical potential. It is possible in which during this time there were"contemporary Spanish colonial bans on music". Playing any music would get one beaten, incarcerated or even killed. A Cajón could easily turn into a seat or box to carry goods as to disguise the act of playing music. The Cajón, is the modern descendent of an instrument made from that simple wooden box or Caja. From here the history seems to fade out a little until the mid 60's. Two groups set the standards for contemporary Black music in Peru. One was the seminal group Cumanana, founded by Nicomedes Santa Cruz and which disbanded in the ’70s, and the other is Perú Negro. In 1969, Ronaldo Campos was playing cajón in a Lima tourist restaurant. With encouragement from the restaurant proprietor, Campos adapted his repertoire to emphasize black music, and Perú Negro was born. Soon after, Perú Negro won the grand prize at the Hispanoamerican Festival of Song and Dance in Buenos Aires, Argentina and overnight became a national treasure in Peru.* Later in the 1970's, a Peruvian composer and Cajón master, Carlos Caitro Soto, gave a Cajón as a present to Spanish guitarist, Paco de Lucía, during one of his visits to Peru. De Lucía liked the sounds of this instrument so much that before leaving the country he bought a second Cajón. Later he introduced the Cajón to flamenco music. Partial credit for the performance evolution of Black Peruvian music goes to a Cuban drummer named Jesus “El Niño” Nicasio, who performed in Peru in the early ’50s. El Niño and Campos played together in Cumanana, where they incorporated Cuban conga and bongo into black Peruvian music. El Niño invented the first drum patterns used for this genre.** Today, the Cajón is heard widely in Andean, Cuban, Peruvian and Flamenco music styles. It has begun the crossover into many other modern and contemporary forms of music. It's basic structure consists of six sides usually made of plywood or hardwoods of varied thickness from .25"-.75" and with at least one hole cut into a side or back. Feet or risers are not uncommon. The face is of thinner stock and is almost always screwed to the body front allowing the player adjustments of the sound. The overall dimensions also vary as to create the different sound. Some Cajón's have wire stretched across the inside of the face to simulate a snare, while others may have actual snares or even miniature symbols, wire bundles, etc.
Our history with the Cajón