Dubspot blogger Rachel Dixon investigates the rise in popularity of moombahton music, a sound that continues to thrive with an open mind to influence and a focus on the dance floor.
While many dance music genres have emerged over the last several years, moombahton is one that is still heating up dance floors and earbuds at a steady pace. Recently, I quipped that the sound was becoming so ubiquitous that you couldn’t walk into a retail store without hearing those drums. Those drums! While I may have been exaggerating, there’s no denying that moombahton is more than a passing trend.
As a sound grows and expands past its initial buzz, it’s hard to know where it begins and ends. Like most, I know moombahton based only on what I’ve heard. But I don’t want to be just another hanger-on, so I set out to find what sets the genre apart, where it’s headed, and who the most influential players are in the game today.
Dave Nada and the Creation of the Moombahton sound
In case you missed it, the “Moombah” in moombahton references the song of the same name by Silvio Ecomo & Chuckie. The moombahton creation story begins with DJ Dave Nada slowing down the Afrojack remix of this tune. Nada was booked to play at a reggaeton party with only EDM tracks in his arsenal, so he slowed “Moombah” down from 128 to 108 BPM to make the transition into a more house-focused set, and the kids at the party went nuts. A few months later, Nada released an official remix of “Moombah,” and a genre was born.
Check out the original Afrojack remix of Moombah, then give a listen to Nada’s version:
Dem Bow – The Riddim
The drum syncopation in the slowed-down version sounded a great deal like the riddim (drum pattern) found in reggaeton tracks. This beat is called “Dem Bow” (or “dembow”), after the hugely popular Shabba Ranks track of the same name. Familiar to anyone who has heard reggaeton or dancehall, this riddim is also the backbone of moombahton.
Moombahton may have the riddim of reggaeton, but it borrows some of its instumentation from house music and grime. When I asked DJ Sabo, moombahton DJ and producer, about its other defining characteristics, he said the genre is not defined strictly by its tempo, drum pattern and synth lines.
“Not having specific ‘rules’ is what makes it so great,” says Sabo. “You can pull from any musical and cultural influence and use that to make a moombahton record. Either it has the moombahton vibe or it doesn’t. I think it’s amazing because there really are no rules other than the general BPM be around 108 – 110. People are making tracks that use influences from all types of music – latin, afro, disco, techno, house, rave, dubstep, soul, funk, reggae and more – and that’s what makes it exciting. I think it’s these various interpretations of the genre that will keep it fresh and help it to grow.”
So, where is this genre headed? When Diplo releases a moombahton record to the masses, is the genre over or is it just beginning? While the Dem Bow backbone and house music influences continue to shine through, artists are becoming increasingly creative with vocals, basslines, and song structure. Dubspot instructor and moombhaton producer Joe Caputo (aka Computo) thinks that the genre has expanded in many different directions quickly because “it developed in real time internationally, thanks to the web. It’s really the first global genre, because everyone who was aware of that global community was being influenced by each other.”
Some of the artists DJ Sabo recommends are:
As with all forms of dance music, moombahton is best experienced with other people, dancing. If these new sounds catch your attention, Sabo is throwing a moombahton party at Output, Thursday, May 16. Details are here. See you there.
Dubspot blogger Rachel Dixon was a Handel and Haydn Vocal Apprentice, studied at New England Conservatory, briefly sang lead vocals for the Phoenix punk band Scrimshaw, managed the guestlist at Boston nightclubs Avalon and Axis, and was on the design team for the Dance Central video game franchise. She is a published fiction writer, bedroom songwriter, and poet who lives in New York City with her dog.