January 18th, 2010

dem bow legacies (riddim meth0d repost)

[Since we’re talking about reggaeton again, and about the absence/return of dembow, it seems like a good moment to repatriate the following riddimmeth0d post from early 2006. The post, a complement to an article on reggaeton I wrote for the Boston Phoenix, features a mix which uses the dembow drumloop to string the songs together, most of which represent the sound of the genre during its mid-decade heyday. For more mixxage along these lines, see also: Dem Bow Dem, a mix of “Dem Bow” cover versions (as opposed to songs which only gesture to the dembow rhythmically or timbrally). This was initially posted on 19 January 2006, almost 4 years ago to the day!]

to accompany my piece on reggaeton (with sidebar!) in this week’s phoenix, i’ve put together a mix intended to demonstrate just how deep the dem bow runs through contemporary reggaeton (as well as to establish some sonic links to jamaican dancehall and to other styles).

the sonic-social-symbolic connections here are multiple, myriad. though one can try and try to convey them in prose, sometimes hearing them is really the best way. and that’s what the riddim method‘s all about (for me anyhow): letting the music do the talking.

so let’s get to the sounds in question, but permit me just a couple of notes to orient your attention to what you’ll be hearing.

wayne&wax, “dem bow mix” [mp3] (40 min / 48 mb)

it almost makes no sense to make a “dem bow mix” of reggaeton songs since the vast majority of reggaeton songs appear to feature some element of the inspiring, originary riddim. (and i’m not exagerrating when i say the vast majority.) thus, to make a reggaeton mix is to make a dem bow mix, and vice versa. that’s how inextricable the two are. the dem bow is reggaeton’s rhythmic DNA, a constant feature of the genre’s rhythmtexturtimbre, performing a function somewhere between ‘amen’ and clave. rather than boiling the blood of copyrighters, such use should prove a demonstration of the degree to which a vast world of derivative works can emerge from the creative sampling of recorded music, but which would not be possible – or conceivable even – without an utter disregard for, disrespect for, and disagreement with (american “international”) copyright law.

in the mix i’ve posted here, you’ll hear many appearances of dem bow, including more subtle, textural uses of the percussive loop as well as riddims that really foreground it. moreover, just for good measure, i often add an additional layer of the dem bow (in various versions) to thread pieces together, though a close examination will reveal the riddim already lurking in most of the tracks i’ve selected here. finally, as might be expected, i’ve also cooked up a couple specials and some little segments that i hope prove interesting.

i begin with the dem bow riddim itself (an “original” instrumental version, technically, as one would find on any one of a number of reggaeton “beats” CDs), overlayed with some clips from the BBC/”the world” radio program which aired last summer and featured some interview clips and beatboxing boom-chicking from yours truly. i like the way the mainstream media “hype” comes across here, complete with mis-pronunciations (“reggae-tawn”) and slight exaggeration. from there, we move into shabba ranks’s “dem bow,” the hit which propelled the dem bow riddim to NY, PR, and beyond. i don’t really want to get into the implications here of an entire genre essentially emerging from something that draws such stark lines in the sand, but suffice it to say that shabba’s thematic focus on “dem bow” is consistent with a lot of reggae (and some reggaeton): it’s anti-gay, anti-oral-sex, anti-imperialist.

the latter point – shabba’s pro-black stance against colonial(ist) oppression – points us to an interesting, and often overlooked, irony: that the dem bow is closely related to another dancehall riddim, the poco man jam, created by steelie&clevie in 1990, essentially “re-licked” (and tweaked) by bobby digital for shabba’s “dem bow,” and associated with and juggled alongside each other ever since. of course, “poco” in this case refers to the afro-jamaican religion, pocomania (alt. pukkumina), but i can’t help hearing a strong resonance with another meaning of poco. reggaeton’s relationship to race is something that has gone pretty unexamined in all of this coverage, so that’s another dimension – linked as it is to circumstances in the post-colonial americas – which i attempted to address, if only briefly, in my article for the phoenix.

after the dem bow/poco man section (including tunes by gregory peck, cutty ranks, and super cat), we hear panamanian founding-figure el general performing “son bow,” his traduccion of shabba’s “dem bow,” and from there, we get into the real deal: some PR-reppin’ from tony touch to kick it off, followed by some early, ruff-n-ready sounds from ivy queen. once we get into the reggaeton songs, we essentially thread our way through various “big chunes” that employ the dem bow, making a couple detours as we go: we hear how reggaeton producers nod to contemporary hip-hop as we segue from “el tiburon” to the busta rhymes song that seemingly inspired its chord-progression (as well as a dubplate-version by kingston-based DJ scrum dilly); there’s a section devoted to “juggling” over what we might think of as the gasolina riddim (for luny tunes appear to approach their riddims much like, say, lenky approached the diwali and steelie&clevie approached the poco man); and finally we close with two mini-mixes, the first devoted to bachataton or reggaetonchata or whatever they’re calling the increasingly common mixture of reggaeton and bachata (actually, i think they’re calling it reggaeton, and genres like bachata may be in serious danger of being eaten by reggaeton), the second devoted to some salsa-drenched remixes, including one of my own, connecting el gran combo’s “ojos chinos” to the tego song that alludes to it.

that – and the tracklist below – should be enough to give you a handle on all of this (si no ya lo tienes). ojala que hope you dig. if you do, go out and get yerself some reggaeton today. (i recommend these.)

wayne&wax, “dem bow mix” [mp3] (40 min / 48 mb)


Dem Bow intro: BBC “The World” excerpts
Shabba Ranks, “Dem Bow”
Gregory Peck, “Poco Man Jam”
Cutty Ranks, “Retreat”
Super Cat, “Nuff Man a Dead”
Shabba Ranks, “Dem Bow”
El General, “Son Bow”
Tony Touch, “Pa’ Que Tu Lo Sepa”
Ivy Queen, “Yo Soy La Queen”
Tony Touch ft. Nina Sky, “Play That Song”
Wisin & Yandel, “Rakata”
Alexis, Fido, & Baby Ranks, “El Tiburon”
Busta Rhymes, “Break Ya Neck” (w&w dembow mix)
Scrum Dilly, “Nah Go Stray (dubplate)” (w&w dembow mix)
Hector “El Bambino,” “Dale Castigo”
Daddy Yankee, “Dale Caliente”
Daddy Yankee, “Cojela Que Va Sin Jockey”
Ivy Queen, “Marroneo”
Daddy Yankee, “King Daddy”
Tony Touch ft. Lisa M, “Toca Me La”
Daddy Yankee, “Gasolina”
Don Omar ft. N.O.R.E., “Reggaeton Latino (remix)”
Don Omar, “Dile”
K Mill, “Metele Perro”
Ivy Queen, “La Mala”
Pitbull, Master Joe, & O.G. Black, “Mil Amores”
Ivy Queen, “Te He Querido, Te He Llorado”
Tego Calderon, “Metele Sazon”
Tego Calderon, “Dominicana”
El Gran Combo, “Ojos Chinos” (w&w dembow mix)
Daddy Yankee, “Sabor A Melao”
Dem Bow outro (Shabba Ranks vs. El General)

pocoman nuh bow. dem jam, seen tu sabes?


  • 1. GringaSalsera  |  January 19th, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    you mention that bachata may be at risk of being eaten by reggaeton, since it has been a few years since you’ve written this, what do you think has happened in that regard since then and now? I have only heard a few bachata-fied reggaeton songs, like Daddy Yankee’s bachata remix version of “Lo Que Paso Paso.” I don’t think bachata would be overtaken, it is so distinctive and too many people love it. Maybe that doesn’t sound like the best argument…
    I think the bachata infused reggaeton, like the salsa-fied songs you put in the mix such as “Sabor a Melao” are the artists trying to connect with those genres of music. I don’t think anyone would argue that salsa is at risk of being overtaken by reggaeton either but I think most reggaetoneros (at least the good ones) know how important salsa is, and any inclusion of it in their music looks mostly like a tribute or attempt at connection to a style of music that is held in high regard. Similarly with bachata, even with groups like Aventura who are modernizing or urbanizing the music or whatever you want to call it, it’s still strictly bachata and I don’t see it at risk of getting so close to reggaeton that it will get sucked in.
    These are of course just my opinions as merely a long time listener of these kinds of music.

  • 2. wayneandwax  |  January 19th, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    looking back at this point, I have to admit that I agree with you entirely. I should say right away, tho, that I meant that comment in a somewhat flippant way. I mean, what would it even mean for reggaeton to “eat” some other genre? I guess I was imagining that the sound of reggaeton (namely, the dembow) would so widely infuse urban Latin pop music that it would, in that way, absorb genres like bachata, not unlike the effect hip-hop has had on r&b (not that I’m arguing that r&b has been eaten by hip-hop — sheeeet, might be the other way around). more than anything, i was wondering whether reggaeton would be able to draw enough on bachata to basically push it out of urban soundscapes and radio playlists. but obv that hasn’t happened. bachata is still going strong, even though it’s been eaten by r&b ;)

  • 3. nati  |  January 21st, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Thank you! This mix is making me nostalgic.

  • 4. The Official Reggaeton/De&hellip  |  April 29th, 2010 at 6:22 am

    […] part was dope. know i want that song. never heard it before. The mix comes from this blog post: wayneandwax.com dem bow legacies (riddim meth0d repost) I highly recommend that you guys listen to the whole mix. It's like a short and quick history […]

  • 5. wayneandwax.com » D&hellip  |  June 25th, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    […] already discussed and DJ-demo’d the degree to which the Dem Bow riddim underpins the lion’s share of […]

  • 6. dj el nino  |  June 25th, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    hey wayne,

    in the following weeks im going to be doin a compilation cd called “dancehall reggaeespanol 2010″….you can imagine where im going with it…..

    ill send it to you first when i put it together

  • 7. rene  |  August 4th, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    big up maximum respect

  • 8. rene  |  August 4th, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    how can i download this music??

  • 9. wayneandwax  |  August 5th, 2010 at 9:26 am

    there’s a link to the mix mp3 in the post. (a couple, actually.) just click on it and then “save page as,” or right-click and save.

    to make it easier, here it is again:

  • 10. REGGAETON music thread (l&hellip  |  May 20th, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    […] […]

  • 11. wayneandwax.com » D&hellip  |  July 25th, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    […] lots to find around the web, but here are a couple of mixes I’ve made that focus on it: Dembow Legacies, Dembow […]


I'm a techno-musicologist, internet annotator, imagined community organizer.

I left my <3 in the digital global, but I reside in Cambridge, MA, where I'm from.

I represent like that.

wayne at wayneandwax dot com

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