Gran Cajoneada 2018 in Lima Peru

Cajons Arriba at the end of playing.
Cajones Arriba! At the end of playing the Cajoneada tune everyone is asked to hold up their cajon.

The Gran Cajoneada is a public group play of a previously defined cajon tune performed in a large plaza.  The cajon tune to be played in 2018 was posted on the internet several months before the event. I’d practiced it off and on for over a month but there were still parts I wasn’t comfortable with. It was not my usual playing style and it took some slowing down of the posted video for me to get the timing and hit emphasis just right.  I was glad there was practice time at the Cajoneada in the morning.

A school group practicing at the Gran Cajoneada in Lima, Peru

On Saturday morning hundreds of cajon players started streaming into the Plaza Andres Avelin Caceres in San Isidro.  Peru has many organized cajon clubs and school groups who showed up, many in coordinated shirts and scarfs. A few groups were sponsored by corporations. As folks gathered leaders began practice sessions. Eventually festival organizers led practice sessions from the main stage.

A father and son sit side by side on cajons.
Families, friends and school groups gathered at the Gran Cajoneada in Lima Peru 2018

As folks entered the Plaza there were a lot of big smiles and cheek kisses, the Cajonaeda is perhaps a chance for old cajon school groups to re-kindle friendships and relive past events.

Cajons by Cajonearte for sale outside the Gran Cajoneada area. Photo by Cajonearte.

Morning practice events were broken up by group stand-up-and-stretch moments blended in with a bit of on-the-spot dancing. Most all public gatherings I go to lately have outrageously loud PA systems and this one was no exception, I was glad I had my ear plugs ready during the dancing sessions.

A cajon with a sticker with a stylized P in Peru. in
Most cajons at the Cajoneada were made in Peru.

The overall tune to be played was broken up into 4 sections. Each section was practiced separately then all played together several times. I was so focused on getting good photos and videos I missed many of the section practices. During the main playthoughs I found myself tapping lightly during the parts I was less confident with.  I was playing during the main playthoughts so I’d recommend this video to experience the tune: Gran Cajoneada

Many very nice cajons at the Cajoneada. This one is an ATempo, made in Peru.

Outside the staging area booths were setup selling food, clothes and musical instruments.  ATempo, LP and Cajonearte sold cajons — you could arrive without and buy a nice cajon right there. But I would not advise trying to play in the Cajoneada without having practiced to the video beforehand. The beats are fast and moderately complicated, there are a few change-ups and the sequencing of patterns is not completely linear.  The video of the patterns is quite good but even the slowed down patterns were sometimes to fast for me to follow at first.

Cajons held up at the end of playing.
For only a brief minute participants held up their cajons during the final moments of the Gran Cajoneada.

The ‘cajones arriba’ moment occurs at the end of the group play and is a wonderful photo op, but wow, is it short. You’d better be prepared. I was glad to get anything at all.

I only saw one Black Percussion Cajon. I don’t know if they are still in production.

Most children played C.Peru cajons. C.Peru cajons are the most frequently found cajon for sale in Lima but I’ve yet to find any information about them on the internet. Perhaps 1/3 to 1/2 of the cajons in the Cajoneada were C.Peru cajons with VP Cajons, PR cajons and ATempo cajons making up the remainder, more or less evenly split between them. All these cajon brands are made in Peru by Peruvian based cajon makers.  I only saw a few international brands of cajon and all were on the stage, having helped to sponsor the event.

These are the VP Cajons and C.Peru cajons belonging to the Colegio Matematico Alfa Group in Lima Peru.

They say that 80% of any video is the audio. Well, I messed up. I should have had a handheld recorder going the whole time. Something with a serious pad would have been good. The action camera was overwhelmed by the loudness, especially on the close shots. I found afterwards it has a Mic level option, which was set to High. Oh well.  I had the point and shoot set on -10 dB and it did better but even so the sound is often distorted.

Here are some video clips of the Cajoneada. The audio is often distorted so I turned it way down, this is more for the visual experience:

The Gran Cajoneada is one event in the 4 day Festival Internacional de Cajon y Perucsion held in Lima Peru every year. For more information on the Festival check out their Facebook page.