The Cajons of Popayan Colombia

There are at least two cajon builders in the Popayan area, Fabox Cajones and JP Cajon. Both make good instruments.  They are both innovators, their cajons often have small or sometime significant enhancements that make them unique and interesting. Both are serving the local populace and have simple, basic models as well has higher end models. A nice higher end model will run about $100 USD. These cajons would cost 2 times the asking price in Europe or the USA. Fabox Cajones are available in a few music stores in Cali and Bogota. JP Cajons are also available in Cali.

Some models of FaBox have internal baffle directly behind the top of the tapa. Some of their cajons have unique guitar string snares. And some have adjustable sound holes. They all look great and play well. The guitar snare wires are found in typical flamenco style cajons typically run vertically. FaBox snare wires are horizontal at the top which is nice as it isolates the snare sound from the bass sound.

FaBox cajon with adjustable guitar snare
FaBox cajon with adjustable guitar snare

JP Cajons also sometimes have internal baffles directly behind the top of the tapa. This isolates the sound of the snare, sending it outward from the tapa and decreases the amount of snare in the bass from the sound hole. 

There was also an un-branded cajon with an interesting snare wire modification. Occasionally cajon makers attaching the snare wires directly to the seat or to a re-enforcement along the front seat edge. It is a simple method of adding snare, but there is no way to adjust or remove the snare. In the photo below you can see that the snare wires along the bottom are being held in place with a guitar string stretched between the sides, I’d never seen this before.

Snare wires attached at the top and held in place by a guitar string.
Snare wires attached at the top and held in place by a guitar string along the bottom. This is a simple, un-branded cajon sold in the Armonia music store on Carrera 8.
Snare wires on a basic cajon model
Attaching snare wires directly to a side support is a simple but effective way to add snare.

There more than 7 music stores scattered in the colonial center of Popayan. Many carry locally made cajons and all have a selection of other percussion instruments, often made in Colombia. Prices are low and quality is good.  If you are a musician or want a locally present for a musician friend, visiting these music shops is a good way to connect with quality, local products. The following music stores with street address carry locally made cajons:

  • Serenata, Calle 5, 10-68
  • Armonia, Carrera . 9, 7-11
  • Pentragram, Calle 6, 9-22
  • Mi Guitarra, Carrera 8, 6-32
  • Melodia, Carrera 8, 6-58
Location of music stores in Popayan Colombia that carry local cajons.
Location of music stores in Popayan Colombia that carry local cajons.

When I was there in March of 2019, the high end FaBox models were probably the best cajons in Popayan. They are good plywood cajons with some interesting innovations and nice finishes. JP cajons are decent inexpensive cajons, I actually bought one in Cali and donated to the hostel I was staying in.

FaBox cajon as recorded in Serenata music store.