Rare Valje "Concert" Bongo for sale

This is a very rare Valje bongo. Sometimes called the "Concert" model due to the extended shells. This bongo is in excellent condition. No repairs or cracks. The chrome is clean. All parts are original. Made from red oak. Even the sticker is completely intact. This bongo has a great old school sound, dry, with a lot of volume and it is a pleasure to play.

This model was known to be the favorite of famous bongocero John "Dandy" Rodrigues Jr.

Only Valje ever made a bongo like this and not many were made. A great bongo for a player or a collector. This drum was made sometime in the late 60's or early 70's. This model Valje is rarely seen for sale, especially in this condition.

The macho is 7 1/2" and the hembra is 8 1/2". Both shells are 7" deep.

This is a no reserve auction. The highest bidder will get this unique and remarkable instrument and piece of percussion history.

Here's the link to the auction.



Jay Bereck of Skin on Skin Interview

a recent photo of Jay Bereck with a vintage Gon Bops conga. Photo:Jaisen Torres

I almost forgot I had this; a very insightful interview with the one and only Jay Bereck of Skin on Skin from 1999.
a set of Skin on Skin congas made for me by Jay Bereck.

Tuesday, August 31th 1999, 2:11AM

Don't tell anybody, but many practitioners of Santeria, the West African religion, purchase their batas (Nigerian two-headed drums) from a Jewish artisan in Crown Heights.

"It's almost sacrilegious to reveal that, but, yes, I make the ceremonial drums," said Jay Bereck, who has been handmaking congas from scratch for some of the world's greatest Latin jazz percussionists for most of his 61 years. "And I didn't have to leave Brooklyn to do it."

Born in Williamsburg and raised in Borough Park, Bereck never imagined that his hobby would become a full-time career. Back in the '50s, he imagined he would spend the rest of his life toiling as a sheet-metal worker, manufacturing congas in his spare time, and playing his creations in his East Village mambo band.

"The only Hispanic thing about me is my wife," said Bereck, who recently celebrated 38 years of marriage to Maria Migenes, a nurse of Puerto Rican descent. "It was unusual to see a Jewish guy into Afro-Cuban rhythms, but that was the only kind of music that meant anything to me."

Bereck got into making congas because he didn't like the quality of the congas that were out there. And he learned how to make them by the book literally.

"I studied history books, examined their construction, experimented, took them apart, fixed them," he said. "Then in the '70s, while there was a lapse in the construction trade, I started to take on lots of orders to make congas, bongos, batas and before I knew it, I was doing it full-time."

Short, stocky and covered head to toe with sawdust, the chain-smoking Bereck is reminiscent of Ernest Hemingway with his white beard and love of Cuban culture.

"I'm a meticulous slob," said Bereck, pointing out his file system: a steel door with the names and phone numbers of his clients scrawled in black marker. Bereck's list ranges from Afro-Cuban legend Mongo Santamaria to lesser-known artists from Switzerland, Nigeria, Japan, Greece and Sweden.

Bereck's door is one of the many things that adds to the atmosphere of his funky workshop, Skin on Skin, which takes up the entire top floor of a warehouse at 1678 Atlantic Ave.

Everywhere you step and look are planks of ash and folds of rawhide ready to be cut, stretched, hammered, screwed, fitted, sanded and polished into congas, batas, and bongos.

"People think I'm making a fortune here. Ha! Check this out," Bereck said, jerking his thumb at a tattered price list taped to the wall: congas range from $320 to $385; batas from $295 to $335.

Sunset Park's Willie Martinez, a percussionist for the Ray Santos Orchestra, has purchased congas from Bereck for the last 20 years.

Martinez calls Bereck the Stradivarius of the conga.

"Jay's congas produce voices that you cannot get from mass-produced congas," said Martinez. "With Jay's congas, when you strike the center skin, it produces a rich bottom sound a deep bass moan that sounds just like the handmade congas made in Cuba."

Bereck said that he and his assistant, Amilcar, make at least three congas per week.

"I want to raise my prices, but conga players remember their poverty for too long," said Bereck, who said that if it wasn't for his wife's income, he would have had to close his workshop 25 years ago.

"Congeros are not violinists. They don't pay thousands of dollars for their instruments nor would they if they could," Bereck said with a laugh.


My favorite conga for rumba!

I have been lucky enough to own several excellent drums, and played on many more. Ritmo by Matt Smith, Skin on Skin by Jay Bereck, Moperc's by Michelle Ouelett, Isla by Mario Punchard, LP, Gon Bops original and new, some old Cuban drums. However, the drum I enjoy most, my very favorite drum for rumba is this old Valje tumba produced sometime in the 1960's by Tom Flores with this excellent skin by LH Percussion.

This drum just has a beautiful tone, not too dry, not too wet sounding and can be played as loud or as softly as you want. I can tune it down or up and it still sounds great. The best thing about this drum though, is it's bass tone, it can be heard and felt whenever it's played in rumba, this drum gives that bomba that BOOM it needs to really push and drive the clave. I love it.

I got this drum from a friend in Berkeley a few years back. I remember him mentioning it was a little big for him to comfortably play and he preferred his other drums, so I made him an offer and he bit! he's right, it is a big drum, 31" tall, 12 1/4" at the head. I believe this Valje's large size is what gives it the incredible bass tone it has.

I got very lucky with the skin, not too thick to choke the bass, not too thin to sound ringy, it is soft to the skin and responsive to the touch.

I also really enjoy the look of this drum. Made in another era, the red quarter sawn oak just has a character of grain you can't find anymore. This Valje has a few scars here and there, and I've had to repair a couple cracks, but it has been solid now for a couple of years. I had new lugs made by Ralph Flores at Resolution drums, as the LP lugs that were on it just did not look right I don't baby this drum, I use this drum for public rumba and playing outside in the park. I play it hard and I am not afraid to hit the skin or sides of the drum with sticks.

I've got a another Valje from the 60's I pair up with this drum and my Sol quinto rounds out this rumba set. As beautiful sounding set of congas as you will ever hear, made right here in California.

Like I've said, I've owned a lot of nice drums but this one is staying with me.