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Roland Kavé’s Bongo Drum

Object Details

20th century
6 5/16 × 14 1/4 × 7 1/2 in. (16.1 × 36.2 × 19 cm)
Cite As
Gift of Roland Kavé
Many Washingtonians danced to mambo rhythms driven by the bongo drum in the 1950s and 1960s. The double drum emerged about fifty years earlier in eastern Cuba with roots in African drumming traditions. Bongo players, or bongoseros, typically sit and hold the yoked pair of small drums between their legs, rapping rhythms with fingers and palms. Strips of wood form the shells of these drums, accented by carved grooves. The hembra, or female, drum is slightly larger than the macho, or male, drum. Metal tacks secure the drums’ heads onto brown metal bands that also ring their open-ended bases. This bongo drum belonged to Roland Kavé (1931-2017), who first brought mambo from New York to Washington, DC in the 1950s. The lifelong Washingtonian led several Latin jazz bands, most notably Los Diablos, and taught hundreds of people to mambo on U Street Corridor dance floors, including the Casbah and the Tropical Room in the Dunbar Hotel.
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