It think the French girl I chatted with in the hostel kitchen this evening thinks I’m a bit daft… I went on for a bit about how “cajons are like toothpaste”. She may have misinterpreted my meaning. I tried my best to really emphasize the C in ‘cajon’. I tried, I really did. In Spanish class today my professor tactfully pointed out the significant differences between the hard C and the soft c when pronouncing ‘cajon’. I never knew.
My thesis revolved around the concept sometimes called the ‘Illusion of Choice’ – the marketing technique whereas a company produces many, more or less identical products, with completely different names and packaging. Thus giving the consumer the appearance choice. Yet all come from the same company, similar factories, with perhaps slightly different amounts of… sugar, or something.
I went to 9 music stores here in Quito, Ecuador today… looking at and playing cajons. I sat on and tried out 6 different ‘brands’. Turns out most were made in Thailand. It got me thinking about one of the webs ‘best cajons reviews’ I recently suffered through. They looked at 10 cajons, but as I counted up there were 2 models from the global manufacturer I call ‘Big Cajon’ and 4, maybe even 6, from ‘brands’ who I suspect are either completely owned by or partnered with Big Cajon. The 2 brands I think are fully independent were given good but not outstanding reviews.
I tried to explain to the French girl how 3 or 4 companies make most of the toothpaste in the world but if you look at the shelves in many stores you seem to have an amazing number of choices. Choices that are an illusion. My passionate comparison of toothpaste to cajons was perhaps not well thought out. But as a millennial with good teeth and not much interest in percussion, she shrugged it off and the conversation moved on.
Tomorrow night I will attempt to clarify: as with toothpaste, when searching for a quality cajon, there may be many ‘brands’ in reviews and stores that could actually be from the same company, similar factories, with perhaps slightly different amounts of… sugar, or something.
Unlike health care products, the labeling and reporting origins of factory made cajons may sometimes be incomplete. This website, Cajons of the World, is devoted to promoting the work of local cajon manufacturers. I try to ensure the lists are accurate. I look at and evaluate each builders website and videos. I chat with builders I am uncertain of to verify their location. Occasionally I may ask for additional photos of the manufacturing process or to tour the workshop. I consider the output from one factory, no matter what the tapa graphic or labeling may tout, to be from a single manufacturer.
For more-or-less unbiased help navigating the drum box illusion of choice check out: The Best Cajon from this site. For more information on why cajon brands are added or removed from this site please see “About CajonsMadeIn.com“, “Tapa Graphics” and “Made-in vs. Assembled-in”
Moral of the story: Consumer, beware the illusion of choice in the time of “the best cajon”.