Michael Kotzen

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Quick Facts
Brussels, Belgium
musical instruments, mixed-media, installation, performance, sculpture, exhibition/performance


Michael Kotzen 

Building musical instruments that are sonically, visually and tactically apealing is my passion.

In 1997 I was introduced to the cajon. At the time there were no commercially available cajóns so I set out to build one for myself. Soon after I began building them for others and several years later I had the opportunity to visit several premier cajón builders and players in Peru, where the cajón is recognized as the country’s national instrument.

The cajón, "box" in Spanish, originated in Cuba and Peru where wooden containers including shipping crates and dresser drawers were modified by African slaves to serve as drums. My quest, with encouragement and advice from Donnie Wade, a luthier in Texas and Brian Radney, a master woodworker, was to design and build cajóns with a broad tonal range. 

Since then, I've had the opportunity to build them for many top percussionists in the industry including Tico Torres (Bon Jovi), Leon Mobley and David Leach (Ben Harper), Mick Fleetwood (Fleetwood Mac), Lenny Castro (Toto), Taku Hirano (Lindsey Buckingham), Walfredo Reyes (Chicago), Richie 'Gajate' Garcia (Diana Ross), Mona Tavakoli (Jason Mraz), Tim Curle (Josh Groban), and Broadway musical ace Damien Bassman.

It's been immensely rewarding to work with percussionists to fashion an instrument that suits their playing style and the type of music it will be used for.  

The ongoing evolution of this instrument has led me to experiment with a wide variety of woods and design innovations including a cajón with an ergonomic angled front, Slap Pads that attach to the outside of the instrument to create additional timbres. I also mount the instruments on legs for players who prefer to stand or incorporate the cajón into a drum kit. 

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