Gon Bops Daniel De Los Reyes Signature Cajon
By Dendy Jarrett |
Gon Bops Daniel De Los Reyes Signature Cajon
Kick, snare, repeat - in a box!
by Dendy Jarrett
Today, so many trends are about moving to convenience. Smaller kits, smaller snares, lighter hardware, minimal mic setups, and for many the benchmark of measure is…will it fit in a Mini-Cooper?
But that’s hard for a drummer. Being able to carry something that allows you to have a spontaneous jam is a challenge—unless you have a cajon.
Gon Bops - My first real education on Gon Bops came when friend and mentor, Tom Roady educated me about the company. In 1954, Cuban-American Mariano Bobadilla started Gon Bops in California as a maker of authentic, Cuban-style congas. In addition to their congas, they also focused on more obscure hand-forged accessory items like agogo bells, cowbells, and the like. Gon Bops was acquired by Drum Workshop in the early 2000s, and then later became part of Sabian. For more info on the company, visit their Gon Bops History page.
Cajon – (pronounced kah-hohn or kah-haan) is the Spanish word for box or crate. This instrument is a box shape, and typically has five sides of slightly thicker plywood with a sixth side of a thinner, more resonant, plywood. It’s a self-contained instrument, in that the player sits on the box and plays on the sides.
The instrument’s origin traces back to transplanted West African slaves developing the instrument in coastal Peru. Since the late 18th century, the cajon has been the most widely used Afro-Peruvian musical instrument. However, it’s entering a growth phase in popularity due to the aforementioned convenience and its many possible applications.
Daniel de los Reyes (DDLR) – Daniel Reyes, born in the U.S.A. and of Cuban/Puerto Rican descent, received his early drum instructions from his father, Walfredo De Los Reys, Sr. Daniel has performed with various artists such as Don Henley, Earth Wind & Fire, Chicago, Sting, The Killers, Sheryl Crow, Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, and Yanni, to name a few. He became an official member of the three time Grammy winning Zac Brown Band in 2012, and his membership in the Zac Brown band was responsible for the development of the Gon Bops DDLR Signature Cajon (more on that later).
DDLR Signature Cajon
One of the first things that struck me upon removing this Cajon from the box is that it comes with a canvas carrying case. Bonus points! The canvas bag is a perfect fit, with an adjustable carrying strap. While the bag isn’t padded per se, it is enough to protect the instrument from scratches and damage when moving it around in normal use.
The second and more important attribute I noticed is the box’s stunningly beautiful wood. It’s highly figured dark poplar in a natural finish, with a look similar to highly figured ebony.
The box dimensions are 13.5” x 18.5” x 12” and it has four rubber, non-slip feet. The height is perfect for most people of average height, and doesn’t promote back fatigue. The instrument has internal wires for snare drum replication and a sound port in the rear.
I mentioned Daniel becoming a member of the Zac Brown Band as being instrumental in the development of this specific cajon. This is because he found the current offering of cajons to be too bright and high-pitched for the music he was performing with Zac; he wanted something that could deliver a warmer, rootsy-sounding snare with a boomy bass, hence the choice of poplar wood. This is typically a warmer-sounding resonant wood that produces a more ‘organic’ sound. According to Gon Bops Brand Manager, Luis Gardoso: “We had to go on a search to find the choice poplar used for this signature model. It appears to be just like every other cajon…until you play it.”
Daniel de los Reyes says, “I always loved the Gon Bops Flamenco Cajon, but for this Zac Brown gig, it was simply too bright. Gon Bops took the Flamenco back to the drawing board to develop this lower range cajon. It’s perfect for the Zac Brown gig.”
Swampy! For me, that’s the word that best describes this cajon. It is really well-suited to New Orleans Street Beat, Americana, or country, and anyone playing those genres will highly dig the sound. But the instrument would work well in any musical genre. The bass drum “sound” is enormous, and the snare “sound” is greasy. This cajon really lets you get inside the music and provide that bass, snare and then repeat.
You can increase the front panel tension by applying finger pressure (or pressure with your heel) so if you obtain a higher pitch if desired. I used this cajon in an acoustic environment with an acoustic guitar and acoustic bass, and it was right at home. You can mic the cajon from the front and/or rear port; the rear port provides added bass response. The front produces the slap and pop of the snare, but miking from only the front will give you that overall “drumset in a box” sound you might want. With my gig, I used no miking.
Everyone commented on this cajon in a positive way, and I tried, but I couldn’t find any flaws. There may be musical situations where a more “hip hop” sound is desirable, and you may need to seek an alternative cajon for that application, but hey—what’s another cajon in your arsenal!? (smiles)
Yes, there are masters of the cajon just like Daniel De Los Reyes, who can make this box come alive and take it way beyond your expectations. In my case, I just wanted to provide a solid, great-sounding 2 and 4 for an acoustic show. This was easy to achieve thanks to the non-back breaking design, and because the context was blues music, it delivered big-time on that wet and greasy sound I wanted.
Now—what about you? Yes, I’m a drummer and playing the cajon came naturally to me. But if you find yourself a car dashboard or table-top drummer, then the cajon can be great for you as well. A cajon can provide hours of creative fun, and if you have friends who are musicians, you can fall right in with them and play. A cajon is a great, and compact, companion when you show up to a campsite, coffeehouse, singer-song writer’s house, spiritual retreat, jam session, or all of the above.
And this one wooden signature cajon provides snare, bass, repeat – in a box!
Website: Gon Bops
"RunAway Train" - by John Driskell featuring Daniel De Los Reyes -
"Healin' Highway" - by Brian Collins featuring Daniel De Los Reyes -
"It's Not Ok" - by John Driskell - featuring Daniel De Los Reyes -
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Dendy Jarrett is the Publisher and Director of Harmony Central. He has been heavily involved at the executive level in many aspects of the drum and percussion industry for over 25 years and has been a professional player since he was 16. His articles and product reviews have been featured in InTune Monthly, Gig Magazine, DRUM! and Modern Drummer Magazines.