Back in the '60s and '70s Natal fibreglass congas were a big hit. You can see them in footage of Led Zeppelin, T. Rex, Santana and other major names. More recently Natal diversified with three lines of wood congas, but with the reinvention of Natal by Marshall since 2010, the return of its classic fibreglass congas is cause for excitement.
Natal's flagship Cubana custom fibreglass congas are made in the UK using the original moulds. The Classic series, reviewed here, also use the original moulds, but are made in Natal's Taiwan factory alongside the rest of its percussion inventory.
They are just like the 1960s originals with three sizes available - a 10" quinto, 11" conga and 12" tumba. We have the quinto and tumba, finished in pure white, though you may prefer Black or Red, or another '60s favourite, the Special Edition 'Hand Splattered' paint finish (only available on the conga and tumba) in Black/Red, Black/Yellow or White/Blue.
Hardware, in polished chrome steel, involves six strong tuning hooks allied to oblong plates, each with four secure fixing bolts, and 'comfort hoop' rims pulling down on hand-lapped real hide heads. There is also a protective centre band in matching chromed steel.
Although the fibreglass is thinner than traditional stave wooden drums, the Classic congas are particularly heavy and they don't have carrying handles. The fibreglass gives them a penetrating tone, relatively crisp, so they cut through with sharp slaps and ringing tones. But they also have depth and warmth, just as do fibreglass conventional kit drums.
They are a little more in-your-face than wood congas, with a bell-like ringing quality, but they also have a good range of frequencies which makes them adaptable. The comfort hoops are just that - polished and smoothly rounded with the equally smoothly rounded edges of the fibreglass shell protruding well above (15mm-plus) the steel rims.