Getting to Know Dembow

In our latest piece to promote this month’s Getting to Know You(Tube) event, we discussed the phenomenon of the Jamaican dancehall riddim. One of our favorite uses of riddims to emerge in the last decade has been in the nascent Dominican genre of music known as Dembow. Devoted fans of dancehall will immediately appreciate the scattershot referential nature of tracks like Secreto’s Ponte el Chaleco. Take, for example, this sample from 2:59 to 3:08:

Secreto el Biberón – Ponte el Chaleco


That juicy little flute riff and bassline are from none other than Santa Barbara by the legendary Sly & Robbie’s band Taxi Gang. When Taxi Gang recorded that one, the foundation for the track was Sly & Robbie’s own Bam Bam Riddim, featured here in Murder She Wrote by Chaka Demus & Pliers:

Chaka Demus & Pliers – Murder She Wrote (1994)


The Bam Bam Riddim, while not the most widely used of its kind, is featured on at least 102 tracks according to In contrast to Demus’ chauvinistic admonishment of “corrupt and dirty” women, the riddim’s namesake is most likely the empowered and conscious vibe of Sister Nancy‘s 1982 track, Bam Bam:

Sister Nancy – Bam Bam


While Nancy’s inspiration is clearly the 1966 Maytals & Byron Lee & Dragonaires track by the same name, the riddim she sings over in her version is actually the Stalag Riddim discussed in the DJ Ripley video featured in Saturday’s post. If Nancy’s vocal melody sounds familiar, but you just can’t place it, it may be because you remember hearing it in Lauryn Hill’s track, Lost Ones.

So after that stroll down reggae’s memory lane, where does Secreto’s deejay take us next? Well, from 3:15 to 3:25 we hear the unmistakable verve and swagger of Dr Dre & Snoop Dogg’s Deep Cover. SELECTA! RUN DE RIDDIM!

Dominican youths dance at a dembow contest


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