Hozkinz Takes the Nintendo DK Bongo Controller for a Walk — Turning It Into a Portable Drum Machine

Powered by an Arduino Leonardo-compatible board, this portable music-maker turns a GameCube accessory into an on-the-go drum machine.

Gareth Halfacree
1 month agoMusic / HW101 / Retro Tech

Pseudonymous maker "Hozkinz" has taken Nintendo's classic Donkey Kong Bongos controller, originally designed for use with the GameCube consoole, and created a portable music-making machine — powered by an Arduino Leonardo-compatible board.

"These are mine from my childhood," Hozkinz explains of the still-boxed Nintendo accessory which forms the heart of the project. "DK Bongos, for use with Donkey Kong Jungle Beat — game sold separately. I [want to make] a portable version of these DK Bongos that I can take anywhere and play with at any time, like a real set of bongos, using digital sounds — so I'll be able to use custom instruments for each bongo."

No GameCube? No problem, as Hozkinz turns the classic DK Bongos into an on-the-go drum machine. (📹: bl3i)

Nintedo released the DK Bongos in 2003 as an accessory for the game Donkey Konga, a Donkey Kong spin-off which saw the titular ape placed in a rhythm game setting inspired by the Taiko no Tatsujin series — and developed by the same team.

As the name implies, the DK Bongos take the form of a pair of plastic bongo drums, with a central sound sensor picking up clapping in addition to physical beats. The bogos are designed to be wired to a Nintendo GameCube console — but Hozkinz's project sees the GameCube swapped out for an Arduino Leonardo compatible microcontroller board.

Rather than slicing the original cable, Hozkinz connected the controller to a third-party extension cable — then stripped off the ends to wire them to the microcontroller. An existing library for GameCube-compatible controllers reads the inputs from the bongos, and triggers playback of pre-recorded audio samples on an audio decoder board with SD card storage. Everything is housed in a 3D-printed case, including a battery for true portability, with a grille for the speaker to deliver its dulcet bongo tones.

More information on the project is available on Hozkinz's website, and in the video on his YouTube channel and embedded above.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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