I recently got a last minute call to fill in on percussion for half of a duo at a downtown Philadelphia restaurant. Set one was to start at the height of midweek rush hour and the playing area was about the size of a table for two, nice and cozy. Since I was a short train ride from the gig, and parking, gas and aggravation would bite mightily into the pleasure/profit component of this endeavor, I thought to myself, (in dramatic announcer’s voice) “This is a job for the Travel Conga, From Pearl”. Weighing in at under twelve pounds, and not much bigger than a pandeiro, I had no trouble easily packing Bongos, Travel Conga and a variety of percussion toys in a back pack and small cymbal bag, and hopping on a commuter train to beautiful center city Philadelphia.
As far as sound goes, the Pearl Travel Conga has a full, rich open tone, and a crisp loud slap. The open tone and slap project well and (when accompanying other instruments) rival full size instruments. While the inside bass tone does not fare as well, it has been my experience that in non-traditional settings, this sonic space is dominated by the bass of other instruments. In this case, even an unamplified nylon string guitar (given, my partner and his guitar were impressive in their volume and presence). The bass response was prominent enough to provide the feel the player needs to keep all the rhythms flowing. As I said, the open tones were rich and full, so in this duo setting I used a strip of ProMark Drum Gum to tone it down a little. In larger band situations, wide open would provide a bit more cutting power. It should also be noted that The Travel Conga’s tuning range extends from Tumba, through Conga, onto Quinto. Tuning is done with a large allen wrench with an over sized ergonomic foam handle, which is provided. I was able to change which “drum” I would use between songs without any hassle.
A feature which I found a real plus was how comfortably I was able to play the drum from different setups. While in many settings, a standard snare stand would be practical, sound, projection, and volume were virtually undiminished playing from my lap, or when I used it as a secondary drum, from a small table next to me. The big deal here is you don’t necessarily need a stand. This makes the Travel Conga a very portable and easy to use drum. And speaking of using it as a secondary drum, it really fills the bill to get those ubiquitous open conga tones on the “four” and the “and of four”, regardless of whatever other percussion you’re playing.
Bottom line, this job probably would not have been worth it if I had to haul gear, drive and park at rush hour. With the Pearl Travel Conga, I was in and out like the breeze.