The bongo originated from the eastern region of Cuba known as the "Oriente", during the nineteenth century. The bongos used in changüí, known as bongó el monte, are larger and tuned lower than their modern counterparts, have tack-heads instead of tunable hardware, and play in a manner similar to rumba quinto and other folkloric lead drum parts. (Hear bongó el monte "Ritmo changüí" with Grupo Exploracion). Bongos are also used in the related Cuban musical genre known as son.
The bongos came to western Cuba at the turn of the twentieth century, when son migrated to the capital city of Havana. With the advent of the son montuno in the late 1930s, bongo players (bongoceros) began playing a large hand-held cowbell (bongo bell) during the chorus (montuno) section of songs.