1. A bongo is an African forest antelope, Boocercus euryceros in East Africa or Tragelaphus euryceros in West Africa, having a pudgy reddish-brown body with elegant very thin white stripes down it, and a black and white face. Females as well as males have horns. The Kenyan one is severely endangered.

The largest forest antelope, it is shy and not territorial: its small groups may aggregate into herds at salt licks. The red pigment of its coat comes away on your hand: the Zande people of Sudan believe this can give you leprosy.

2. Omar Bongo has been president of Gabon since 1967. As Albert-Bernard Bongo he became vice-president under the founding president Léon Mba, who died in office later that year. He converted to Islam and adopted the name Omar. (In an effort to prevent confusion he subsequently declared he would just be known as El-Hadj President Bongo, but me, that confuses me more, especially as that forename-less phase didn't last long.) In November 2003 he decided this wasn't enough and adopted what seems to be a paternal name, becoming President El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba. And he's a mason.

3. Bongo Congo was the country ruled by King Leonardo in the cartoon.

4. Yeah yeah, the bongo drum. These were developed in Cuba in the nineteenth century from an African drum called a bonko. One who plays the bongo is a bongocero.

5. And there was a Bongo the Monkey, a Tush toy, "born" 17 August 1995, "retired" 1 January 1999. It looks like... a plush toy monkey, basically.


"Brazzaville is the capital of what country?"

. . o o O (My name is Little Bongo,
I sing my little song-go.
Whenever I get called upon
the teacher says I'm wrong-go.
My name is little Bongo
I love to play ping pong-go.
I have an ear upon my head
They say it's very long-go.)


. . o o O ((My name is little Bongo
I'm known as a ding-dong-go.
There's just one place that I'd belong...)

"That would be the Congo."

"Very good! Very VERY good!"

. . .

An iconic misfit, Bongo is the infamous one-eared rabbit protagonist of Matt Groening's comic strip Life in Hell. Raised by anthropomorphic bunnies Binky and Sheba*, Bongo's life is fraught with inexplicable contradictions and regular punishments meted out seemingly arbitrarily, often taking the form of being locked in a small room while observed through a slit in the door. It is hinted that his relationship with Binky, his father, is if not abusive still the most terrifying element in his short life, the ominous silhouette of an angry rabbit dominating the foreground of many a one-panel strip while Bongo claims innocence.

Bongo's letter to Santa:
Dear Santa,
All I want for Xmas is my two front teeth.
And another ear.
Your freind,

. . .

In a similar vein, Bongo is also the name of Matt Groening's publishing imprint that produces The Simpsons-related comic book materials such as Radioactive Man, Treehouse of Horror, Bartman, Itchy and Scratchy Comics, Krusty Comics and the Simpsons Annuals. Parallel to this publisher is Groening's Zongo imprint, which publishes material that is less-oriented towards children.

* Bongo was actually conceived before Binky and Sheba ever met, in the blacked-out centre bottom panel of 1981's strip "Binky's Jungle Passion: Part Three." In 1983's "Hellabaloo", shortly after hooking up with Sheba Binky is confronted with a visitation from Hulga, a female of indeterminate species with whom he shared a one-night stand in that infamous black panel. She leaves Binky with the toddler and disappears to pursue her career in New York.

Bongo is named after "Club Bongo", where Binky and Hulga met.

The word "bongos" is often used (out of ignorance) to refer to many kinds of drums that are, in fact, not actually bongos. I have heard congas, djembes, tablas and even tom-toms referred to as "bongos". They are not the same-- not even close.

Bongos are two small drums which are attached to each other. The two drums are of equal height, though the diameter of their drum heads differ. The larger drum is called the hembra, the diameter of its head usually ranges from 8 to 10 inches. The smaller drum, the macho, has a head 6 to 8 inches in diameter. Bongo heads can be made out of a variety of animal hides. Synthetic heads are also popular. X-ray film is often used for the drum head in Cuba; it creates a distinguished "popping" sound with little resonance. This sort of sound is highly desirable for the macho drum, though is hard to achieve with regular skins as they tend to snap under high-tension tuning. Furthermore, change in temperature and humidity can cause a tuned head to snap due to physical constricting. For this reason, it is wise (though pesky) to de-tune your drums after playing them. Tuning the drum is mechanically simple, as most modern bongos are fitted with steel hardware which can be adjusted with a crescent wrench. However, this hardware was not always a standard: earlier in the 20th century, skins were tacked on, and had to be heated manually by flame to be tuned. Bongos are most commonly made out of oak or fiberglass, though it is not rare to find them made out of other kinds of wood.

Bongos are played with the macho to the left of the bongocero (bongo player). They are held between the legs and struck with the pads of the fingers--slapping knuckles against the heads can cause serious physical damage to the player (though makes a much louder noise). The macho drum is usually played more than the hembra. The hembra serves as a "bass" of sorts, the macho acts to accent and count out time.

Bongos are most commonly used in Afro-Cuban music, though they really could go with any genre of music: I've played along with everything from ambient to industrial to country to classic rock to indie pop. They are extremely portable--bongos weigh about as much as an electric guitar (though are much less comfortable to carry around).

You should take up bongos. They're great. I swear.

Bon"go (bŏn"go), n.

Either of two large antelopes (Boocercus eurycercus of West Africa, and B. isaaci of East Africa) of a reddish or chestnut-brown color with narrow white stripes on the body. Their flesh is especially esteemed as food.


© Webster 1913.

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