Made up of a set of two small drums attached by a thick piece of wood, bongos are played while held between the knees. The two drums are of different sizes, with the larger one being called the hembra (Spanish for female) and the smaller one called the macho (male).
Bongos evolved from a set of drums used in religious ceremonies by certain tribes in Africa. When these people were enslaved by the Spanish and brought to Cuba to work in the coffee and sugar plantations, their traditional practices came with them to Cuba. One of the drums used by these people (called the Abakua in Cuba) was called the “bonko enchemiya,” from which the word "bongo" could be derived.