The box drum is a musical instrument of afroperuvian origins that has become popular all over the world thanks to flamenco, modern jazz and afro-latin-caribbean music. They is data about the first box drums existing in Peru in the XIX century, but until 2001 it was not recognized as National Cultural Heritage.
Flamenco Drum Box by Manuel Cortés, model Sky Blue
The instrument was born in the central and north peruvian coast. The box drum was created by africans that were brought into the country as slaves during the spanish colonization. This people saw the wooden boxes, used to move goods, as a great percussion instrument and they started using them for their sacred rituals and artistic manifestations. For this same reason, the drums were prohibited by the Catholic Church because they thought the instrument was pagan, and during the Viceroyalty of Peru was also banned to prevent the black people to communicate with each other on the distance. All of the box drums found were burnt.
The first references about the box drum being used as a musical instrument started to appear in 1840. The artist normally sits on top of it and has the drum box in between the legs. This posture helps them feeling the rythm while striking the instrument with the palms or fingertips to create sounds. The most modern version has, also, three extra screws that help to adjust the tone, and, sometimes in order to enrich the music some small metal objects are put inside the box. In Spain, for example, the flamenco box includes three or four metallic cords to add resonance.
Flamenco Drum Box by Mario Cortés, World Soul
In its originis the peruvian box drum was used in traditional dances from the centre and north of Peru. But slowly its influence expanded to a global stage. The main reason why the box drum arrived to Spain and more specifically to the flamenco community was the famous andalusian musician Paco de Lucía. After a tour in 1977 through Latin America, he decided to take the peruvian drum box back with him and started using it in his shows. Since then and after 25 years, it has become an irreplaceable element in our culture and has become the reason of the birth of a lot of new percussionists in the contemporary flamenco. Such a great integration in the local culture is related to the fact that the box drum is just in between the flamenco claps and the foot stomping. This is also why the now called flamenco or spanish drum box has suffered several variations like the use of cords inside of it, or the change of the way to fix the acoustic lid to the box.
Flamenco Drum Box by Mario Cortés, model Black&White
Also, as the times moves the box drum has experienced influences in the ways it can be played. As it expanded globally, not just percussionists but also drummers have become close to it and this has allowed the introduction of new tools, like drumsticks, specially metal and plastic brushes, and even a pedal, which transforms it in indirect percussion and makes it almost a pedal bass drum, only the flamenco drum box has the limitation of the initial position. In this sense, in 2008 the italian Ovidio Venturoso created a system with a pedal to play this instrument with the hands and the foot, but without altering the traditional position of the musician.
Another interesting idea has been created by the sevillian artist, Daniel Galiano, who, after arriving to the airport and seeing his drum box broken, invented a foldable one. This invention, easily transportable since it can fit in a suitcase or a backpack, and whose sound doesn't change in quality, is something that was never brought up before.