Bongos (Bongo Drums) are a percussion instrument made of two small drums of different size attached to each other. The larger drum is called a hembra (Spanish for female) and the smaller drum is called a macho (Spanish for male). Bongos are usually made of wood, metal or composite materials attached by a thick piece of wood. The heads are usually made of animal skin, such as goatskin or water buffalo skin, or synthetic material. Bongo drums are held between the knees with the larger drum on the right, and are traditionally played by striking the drumheads with the fingers and palms. Some contemporary compositions require the drums be played with sticks or brushes.
The history of bongo drumming can be traced to the Cuban music styles known as Changüi and Son. These styles first developed in eastern Cuba (Oriente province) in the late 1800's around the time that slavery was abolished, and with the styles came the development of bongo drums. Initially, bongo drums had heads which were tacked and tuned with a heat source. By the 1940's metal tuning lugs were developed to facilitate easier tuning. Some of the first recordings of bongos can be heard performed by the groups Sexteto Habanero, Sexteto Boloña and Septeto Nacional.