Remo Mondo Cajon
Remo Mondo Cajon
The cajon market has expanded so much over the last few years that probably 90% of kit drummers are familiar with them or have experience of them, and (I''m guessing) a large percentage of them own one for ''unplugged'' gigs. The cajons familiarity to kit players has really helped increase its popularity – drummers can find ''bass drum'', ''snare drum'' and ''hi hat'' tones fairly easily, plus you can play them with beaters and brushes and its altogether a shallow learning curve to get a useable result.
So when a Remo Cajon box turned up for me to review I had my doubts how Remo could put a new slant on the instrument. The Mondo Cajon was launched at Winter NAMM 2012 back in January (and we were at the breakfast launch), so I''d seen it and heard it already, but as with all these things, its better to actually use the gear in acoustics you are familiar with. The cardboard box seemed rather small in comparison with my ''usual'' cajon and when I opened it, the cajon looked rather diminutive, but hey, good things come in small packages (29x28x47cm approx) and all that, so I got on with having a play.
First visual impressions were, I''m afraid, not outstanding. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with the construction (which is very good), the plain birch plywood body does look a little... boring, possibly. However, when you replace the ''boring'' word with ''traditional'', then it becomes a little more interesting.
The Mondo cajon is built in Spain (so is probably as authentic as you can get for a modern cajon) and has the Remo crown on the bottom of the front panel. However, as cajon design and building has become something of an art form in the last few years, with more exotic and amazing looking instruments becoming available from more manufacturers, a ''traditional'' looking cajon does look a bit...errr... ''traditional''.
Also, one of my students asked me why I had a cajon by a well known brand which, although good, tends to be associated with the cheaper end of the market, and wouldn''t believe me when I said it was really good and it wasn''t that brand. He only believed me when I showed him the Remo logo. That’s the problem - if you cant see the Remo logo, it does look a bit cheap. It doesn''t look different enough, in my opinion, from the sort of generic cajon you can buy in a general music store for a quarter of the price.
However, on playing the Mondo, the reason for its existence becomes quickly apparent. It is very easy to play and sounds great, albeit in a more traditional way than the modern style of cajon that is desperate to be a drum kit. I don''t think I''ve played a cajon that is this easy to play. It feels very natural and authentic. OK, so the bass might not be as ''bottomy'' as a cajon with a greater air volume, but as a mid sized ''throw-it-in-the-back-of-the-car'' cajon, it''s great and I really like it. Although, having said that, at the RRP, I''m going to make sure its in a good case or padded bag before I do throw it in the car.
Construction wise, apart from the birch ply body, we have a 12cm vent in the back plate. Through this we can see six steel wire snares that run the length of the front panel which probably explains the great snarey-ness of the Mondo. The snares are adjustable with a supplied (inside the cajon) Allen key, using the two hex sockets on the bottom panel which also has four clear rubber feet.
So, is that it? No - I''ve left the best until last. At the NAMM show, Remo were also showing the Texture Targets which are a pack of rough, plastic, self adhesive patches which you can stick onto different areas of the cajon (or anything to be honest). These Targets are designed so you can use more techniques to get different sounds out of the Mondo and a set are supplied with it. Already stuck to the front of the cajon was a 24cm Target circle and supplied in a plastic bag inside the cajon are four curved rectangles which naturally sit under your fingers.
As I said earlier, these are self adhesive and replaceable so you can peel and reposition the Targets as you see fit, but I''m not sure how many times you would be able to do this before the Targets loose their stickiness.
The Targets feel about the same thickness as Ambassador weight film. They look like they are made from Fibreskyn material but its actually rougher with less detail to the graphic. What the roughness does mean you can do is play brush sweep sounds with your fingers by simply sliding your finger pads sideways while pushing onto the targets. The large round Target means you can get a good brush swirl sound as well, and have plenty of real estate to do it on. You can put these Targets any where so if you want them on the sides, you can. The Targets open up a new world of cajon playing and I really enjoyed getting new groove ideas out of them. They are nice and loud with brushes and do encourage you to think a bit more rhythmically, mixing traditional cajon tones with not-so-traditional brush patterns
Price wise, the Mondo cajon isn''t cheap, but like we all eventually realise, you get what you pay for. Having looked at what else is out there (and as I''ve suggested, there are a LOT) it does come in the upper half of the price range (obviously not including the custom cajons carved from a solid block of Wenge type one-offs). And anyway, Remo aren''t associated with cheap prices – they make great instruments and heads that you know will work. It might not be the funkiest looking cajon, it might not be the bassiest, but its certainly the cajon I''ve had most pleasure playing in the last year or so – it just works on so many levels.
This shouldn't influence you but I'm seriously considering buying the demo model.
Recommended Price - £255, $429, 308E
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