Fri March 18, 2011
The Record

Moombahton: Born In D.C., Bred Worldwide

Every other day, it seems, some new buzzword has been punched out by a blogger to describe similar sounds or attempt to fit them into neat genres. In the last month I've seen shows in niches labeled as horrorcore, theatrical post-wave and nu-rave, though I'm sure that some of the artists themselves would argue with these terms. These labels pop up all of the time, and most develop in a specific geographical locations. Moombahton is different.

In November 2009, at the request of his cousin, DC-based DJ Dave Nada, of the house duo Nadastrom, agreed to spin for a group of high school students that had decided to take the day off. But when he showed up to play, there was a problem.

"The kids that were all there were listening to not what I would be playing," Nada says. "They were listening to reggaeton, bachata, Latin music. I was like, 'Alright, I don't want to mess up the vibe and play fast techno electro club music.' So I thought to myself, 'What if I slow down the records that I have?' I slowed down this one track called 'Moombah, and low and behold it popped off."

In keeping with Nada's formula, Moombahton is a cross between Dutch house music and reggaeton. Popular in 2009, Dutch house music clocks in at a relatively rapid 130 beats per minute, with a 4/4 structure, and fat bass kicks on every beat of the measure. It's a branch of house music that features notably large builds and drops, and uses piercing electro stabs that rapidly glide up and down the sound spectrum.

Reggaton, which became popular in Caribbean and Latino American communities in the middle of last decade, is a slower 108 beats per minute. A blend of reggae, dancehall, and soca, it's usually topped with Spanish-language rap. Nada took elements of each of these styles, and worked them together.

I use certain rhythms, like there's the popular action riddim."

"There's dembow."

"Or the cumbia shake."

"And also thinking about certain arrangements in house music where the beat drops out and then comes back in."

The finished product is pulling fans from a range of backgrounds; Nada describes it as "mid-tempo global bass for the universe."

Unlike most genres, the sound took hold internationally before it got big in any one place. The first time Nada put together an entire set of Moombahton was at a gig in Vancouver during the Olympics, inspiring future moombahtonistas like DJ Lucie Tic from Toronto. Back in DC, Nada starteda weekly party called Moombahton Mondays at a dive named Velvet Lounge in the U Street Corridor. These were intimate affairs where DC's budding electronic dance music community gathered to hear Nada spin. Because the genre had spread on the Internet, Nada came equipped with the work of artists from around the world, who had been uploading their songs to Soundcloud.

DJ Diplo, who has a reputation for exposing smaller genres to larger audiences, explains. "It was global from the beginning," he says. "[Unlike] something like dubstep that was centered in London, and then moved to Canada, and Australia ..., moombahton ... just happened everywhere, man. I was getting music from all over the place."

Moombahton's geographically disparate practitioners include Dillon Francis in Los Angeles; DJ Sabo in New York; A-Mac in Calgary; Jon Kwest in Baltimore; DJ Heartbreak in Charlotte, N.C.; DJ Apt One in Philadelphia; Boyfriend in Vilnius, Lithuania and Brodinski in Paris.

21-year-old Rotterdam-based producer Rayiv Munch, or Munchi, first heard Dave Nada's work online. A Dutchman of Dominican decent, he couldn't believe what he had found.

"When I head that I was like, 'This is what I have to do, this is what I was searching for,'" he says. "And the same night I heard it I made the whole moombahton EP, and then I put it online and it kind of blew up, you know?"

It blew up enough for BBC radio 1 to start paying attention. DJ Toddla T featured an hour long Moombahton segment live on air. Soon, Diplo's label Mad Decent will release a Moombahton compilation featuring work from Dave Nada, Munchi, and many more producers who met each other over an Internet connection.

"It's a whole community thing, a family I guess," says Munchi

And it's a family that looks out for its members. Just two days after I spoke to Munchi, he suffered an intra-cerebral hemorrhage, and fell into coma. He's since woken and is recovering, but he's been slammed with medical bills. These friends that he made online, through making Moombahton, are helping him out. DJ Ayres and DJ Tittsworth, who put out the first Moombahton EP on their T&A record label, have started a fundraising drive to help cover Munchi's costs, which culminates at a party in April, called the Moombahton Massive.

Munchi's work in the genre has already helped spawned a group of subgenres, with names like moombahcore, moombahstep, boombahchero, and moombahsoul. Moombahsoul, for example, keeps moombahton's tempo and rhythms, but samples soul records instead of Latin records.

Of course, it's only a matter of time before moombahsoul breaks down into its own group of sub-genres. After all, it's already a few days old. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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