March 2nd, 2009

Dem Bow Dem

I’ve already discussed and DJ-demo’d the degree to which the Dem Bow riddim underpins the lion’s share of reggaeton tracks. But one remarkable part of the story I haven’t given much focus here is how “Dem Bow” the song — in particular, the chorus melody, but also the basic theme of the lyrics — has also seen its share of reincarnations (often in the form of creative, localized translations).

Last year I wrote an article that specifically traces the migrations, transformations, and connotations of Shabba’s “Dem Bow,” a song released in 1991 and, that same year, covered (twice!) en español. Shabba’s tune has inspired versions of varying fidelity to the original by Jamaicans, Panamanians, Puerto Ricans, and Frenchmen, no doubt among others I’ve yet to hear. Over the course of its already long life, it has gone from a relatively stable anti-gay anthem to a floating signifier for reggaeton’s sexy beat — or, in the case of Paris-based Daddy Yod, a Verlan inversion (“delbor” from “bordel”) for trouble or agitation (h/t Guillaume pour la traduction*). I try to make sense of the implications of such shifts, linking translation to transnation, or the audible articulation (pace Stuart Hall) of communities that transcend as they traverse state borders — something I hear deeply embedded in reggaeton’s sonic structures themselves.

But enough about the article, here’s the thing itself. It was an invited contribution by the editor of a special issue on popular song in Latin America, published in a German journal. Please note that the copy I’m making available here is a pre-print proof, though the final version is quite close to this. Here goes —

>> Wayne Marshall, “Dem Bow, Dembow, Dembo: Translation and Transnation in Reggaeton.” Lied und populäre Kultur / Song and Popular Culture: Jahrbuch des Deutschen Volksliedarchivs 53 (2008): 131-51.

Having tracked down all these versions of “Dem Bow” (including no fewer than THREE songs by Wisin y Yandel, who seem quite content to rip themselves off), I couldn’t resist putting them alongside each other “in the mix,” as they say. It’s a little weird to put a bunch of anti-gay anthems “to tape,” but then again, one thing that’s interesting about the history of this song is that, despite the musical continuities, only the first third of the mix contains homophobic sentiments (many of them, as I describe in the article, quite colorful and imaginative). As you’ll hear, however, “Dem Bow” quickly comes to stand for other things (in other words, it becomes THE dembow, dembo, denbo). Notably, even in the suave hands of W&Y (or w&w for that matter), it remains a chant centering a heteronormative/macho subject. What’d you expect?

      >> w&w, “Dem Bow Dem” (11 min | 24 mb)


Unattributed, “Son Bow” (The Beats: Pistas De Reggaeton Famosas Vol.3)
Shabba Ranks, “Dem Bow” (Just Reality)
Nando Boom, “Ellos Benia” (Reggae Español)
El General, “Son Bow” (The Hits)
Grinds Man, “Dem Bow” (At The Super Stars Conference)
Unattributed, “Dembow ‘The Original'” (Pistas de Reggaeton Vol. 2)
Unattributed (Luny Tunes?), “Dembow ‘The 2004 Version'” (Pistas de Reggaeton Vol. 2)
Wisin & Yandel (Luny Tunes), “Dembow (Pista)” (Pistas De Reggaeton Famosas)
Wisin & Yandel, “Dem Bow” (Jamz Tv Hits, Vol. 2)
Wisin & Yandel, “Dembo (remix)” (A Otro Nivel)
Wisin & Yandel, “Llamé Pa’ Verte (Bailando Sexy)” (Pa’l Mundo)
Wisin & Yandel (ft. Tempo), “Deja Que Hable El Dembow”
King Daddy Yod (ft. Flya, Ragga Ranks, Jamadom, Tiwony), “Delbor 2006”

* sez Guillaume via email re: “Delbor” —

Yeah so no reference to sexuality, just straight up social problems and that the society is fucked up. You even have an eschatological reference at the end of the song. What’s interesting is that they use verlan only in the first verse, like an indication for the listener to make the chorus easier to understand at first. They don’t use verlan in the rest of the song as far as I could understand. Bottom line, it’s pretty safe to say that this song reference the 2005 riots and expand it to express a view of a fucked up society.

[Update 6/2010: A few months ago I found the original recording of Daddy Yod’s “Delbor” (which can be purchased here); also, although it’s not strictly a “Dem Bow” cover, Nando Boom’s “Pension” very clearly traces the melody/vowel-sounds rather closely, and indeed many of the lyrics are the same that he later uses in “Ellos Benia.” The riddim undergirding both Boom tracks, the Pounder, was clearly inspired by the Dem Bow riddim and may just be the missing link between Bobby Digital’s / Steely & Clevie’s production for Shabba and the dembow beat so widely used in reggaeton.]


  • 1. Nina  |  March 3rd, 2009 at 9:24 am

    question, and i am not sure if you have ever covered this anywhere
    what is it about THIS song, what made the dembow “stick” and just take off like it did?

    and thanks for the mix, too bad i didnt bring my iPod cord so I can listen at work

  • 2. Joppe  |  March 3rd, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    nice mix. I almost like reggaeton now.

    BANDITTAN: Reggaeton?!?

  • 3. wayneandwax  |  March 4th, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    To tell you the truth, Nina, I really don’t know.

    I have lots of ideas, but I think it may be basically a case of good ol’ historical contingency: after being versioned and sampled on some influential recordings, it simply because a staple among other producers (and we’re talking about a handful of guys here — Playero, Negro, Nelson, etc. — who probably passed the sample samples around).

    To get to the bottom, however, someone has to ask some of these seminal producers themselves why the dembow became so central and commonplace a musical building block. I’d love to do so myself at some point, but I gotta brush up on mi español and get a ticket to San Juan first.

  • 4. nina  |  March 4th, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    Hmm, but do you think just ubiquity would cause it to catch on with the public?

    And would it have become ubiquitous if there wasnt just a lil something about it that resonated in an extra special way? There were plenty of other songs that were catchy and popular, but the dembow got its hooks in people.

    Its almost as if an entire genre sprouted up based on “the funky drummer”.

    Beat wise I wonder how it compares to salsa and bomba etc.? Maybe the dembow just had some really good clave action going? Ive noticed a lot of reggaeton songs are “sung” in clave.

    Oh well…. thanks again for the mix!!

  • 5. wayneandwax  |  March 4th, 2009 at 9:02 pm

    Actually, yes, I do think that repetition can in itself constitute a form of persuasion.

    But, as I say, I have lots of ideas about why dembow. One of them is definitely musical and has to do with the ways that the dembow overlays musically (rhythmically, really) with any number of Afro-Caribbean genres, incl such PR fixtures as bomba and salsa, not to mention soca, konpa, and so on. (I said as much way back when.) And, depending on what you mean by “dembow,” yes, we can also hear it as a kind of (3:2) clave. That is, if you think dembow = boom-ch-boom-chick, then there’s nothing that distinguishes it especially from any other dancehall reggae rhythm of its day. But if you think that dembow = a more specific pattern, including that “poco” drumroll (often heard as a timbale/”timbal” line in reggaeton), then it’s pretty close to tracing out a good ol’ 3:2 clave. You can see/hear the difference I’m describing in the difference between Figure 1 and Figure 6 on this page.

    That said, I’m still hesitant to bestow on the dembow any sort of transcendent qualities inherent to its mystical musical form. I just think there’s gotta be a good degree of contingency involved.

    Also, we should bear in mind that “dembow” as known in reggaeton is closely based on, but also a distinct transformation of, the instrumental from the Shabba Ranks song. So, in a way, it’s less that there’s something inherent to the original, than that it was flexible enough to permit Puerto Rican producers to reshape it in their own image.

    Still, it’s remarkable isn’t it. Then again, hip-hop — at least for a few years there — basically was a genre entirely based on the “funky drummer.” And we could nominate a number of other genres that draw as heavily on a single break (or two) as reggaeton does the dembow (and, we should remember, a few others too: bam bam, drum song, rich girl): jungle and the amen break, bmore and sing sing / think, bounce and triggerman / brown beat, funkcarioca and volt mix, etc.

  • 6. Dem Bow « Musica La&hellip  |  March 4th, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    […] 4, 2009 by La Evangelista de la Salsa Wayne over at Wayne and Wax is talkin the Dembow again. I wonder periodically what it is about the dembow beat(s) that is so appealing. I mean, of all the […]

  • 7. vamanos  |  March 5th, 2009 at 7:48 am

    Hey Wayne, Nice post and great l’il mix. I want to know what you think about the influence of Gregory Peck’s Poco man Jam ( on early reggaeton also. I’ve seen it included on early spanish reggae comps and the drums are not unlike the dem bow beat. Not sure what riddim it is but sure I’ve often heard the piano keys sampled on early reggaeton jams and I’m sure I hear them on the first track on your mix.

  • 8. wayneandwax  |  March 5th, 2009 at 8:47 am

    Hey Will, thanks for bringing that up. I tend to think of the Dem Bow (which, tellingly, riddimbase classes as “Dem Bow / Poco“) and Poco Man riddims as rather closely related (indeed, there’s a bunch of Poco Man tracks in my Dembow Legacies mix); & as evidenced by that “Son Bow” instrumental with which I begin my mix here (which also, awesomely, features samples from Missy’s “Get Ur Freak On”), I think it’s safe to say that (proto)reggaeton producers did/do too.

    Indeed, see pg. 135 of the article shared here (TLDR?), on which I write —

    Moreover, a closely related riddim, Poco Man Jam, again produced and performed by Dixon and Steely and Clevie, employed a similar drum line while adding additional melodic elements, hence lending itself to live mixing (or “juggling”) alongside the Dem Bow and its various versions. Propelling a number of popular songs around the same time as the Dem Bow, including Super Cat’s “Nuff Man a Dead,” Cutty Ranks’s “Retreat,” and Gregory Peck’s eponymous track, the Poco Man Jam riddim thus served to enhance the resonance of the Dem Bow and the songs associated with it for audiences in Jamaica and its diaspora, as well as in the wider reggae listening community. It is no surprise that elements from both Dem Bow and Poco Man Jam turn up in a number of seminal proto-reggaeton recordings produced in San Juan in the mid-90s…

    Indeed, that similar drum line was what I was referring to in my comment above when I mentioned “a ‘poco’ drumroll” — and here we should note that the reason the Poco Man Jam was named as such was not a sly nod to postcoloniality but because it reminded Jamaican listeners of the music of pocomania (alt, pukkumina, etc.). In that regard, Nina might want to speculate that there’s something about that ol’ time Afro-Caribbean religious music that echoes across and through all of these tracks. Why not?

  • 9. Sorongo  |  March 10th, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    I think Plena had a lot to do with the dem bow rhythm being popular in P.R.

  • 10. wayneandwax  |  March 10th, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    Thanks for your comment, Sorongo. I suspect you’re right — at least that the overlap between dembow and rhythms in plena/bomba/salsa/etc allowed reggaeton to resonate strongly, almost subconsciously, with lots of listeners.

    But I also think we need to be a little exacting about it. While there are certain bomba rhythms that seem to share certain accents with dembow (esp sica?, cuembe?, or seis corrido), to my ears — admittedly, the ears of an outsider — the rhythms in plena seem to have a less pronounced 3+3+2 polyrhythm, if it shows up at all. On the other hand, plena’s steady thump lines up quite well with reggaeton’s “four-to-the-floor” kick drums.

  • 11. lucien  |  March 11th, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    Speaking of “Poco Man Jam,” what about this?

    Wayne says one of his main goals in the “Dem Bow” article is “to make sense of the implications of such shifts, linking translation to transnation, or the audible articulation (pace Stuart Hall) of communities that transcend as they traverse state borders — something I hear deeply embedded in reggaeton’s sonic structures themselves.”
    As such, I would like to direct your attention to Singing Sweetly’s “Donna” on the “Poco Man Jam Riddim” available here:

    “Donna” is a cover of a song written and recorded by Ritchie (Richard Valenzuela) Valens in 1958. When it was released as the A side of a single; Valens’ version of “La Bamba” was the B Side. Though “Donna” was Valens’ biggest hit, his version of “La Bamba” was far more influential, and propelled this Mexican folk song to be the most widely-known Spanish pop song in the world (this is just a guess, though I’m pretty sure I’m right).

    Ok, so, so what does this have to do with reggaeton and “translation to transnation”?

    A couple of things: One, Ritchie Valens was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, and spoke approximately zero Spanish, so there’s some “translation to transnation” right there. If you ever hear him speak (or sing) he sounds like a real California kid.

    Two, and to my mind the more interesting fact, is that “La Bamba” isn’t just any old Mexican folk song, it’s a an Afro-Mexican folk song from Veracruz (traditionally played at weddings, I think), and therefore at the very least must be acknowledged as belonging to the musical tradition of the Hispanophone circum-Caribbean. The origin of the name “La Bamba” is unclear, but may be related to bambolear, though there are towns in Mali, Guinea, and the DRC named Bamba, and it’s also appears as a surname in Senegal, so a West or Central African origin is just as (more?) likely (bomba is ascribed a similar origin, right?). So this Chicano, who speaks little Spanish, is responsible for taking an Afro-Mexican folk song from the coast of Veracruz to the Valley, and then to the world, while a cover one of his other classic songs is recorded over the “Dem Bow riddim” and “Poco Man Jam” riddim in Jamaica during the 1980s, where it expands transnationally and becomes a hit in NYC, and remains a well-known old school dancehall classic in the City to this day.

    I’m not sure if this means anything or not, or what it might mean if it does, but I feel that it at least points to what Wayne and Wax is saying about “translation to transnation,” and Stuart Hall’s theories, etc.

  • 12. lucien  |  March 11th, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    Ooops, I meant “Singing Sweet’s ‘Donna.'”

  • 13. wayneandwax  |  March 11th, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    Wow, Lucien. That’s quite a circuit you’ve traced out! I’m not really sure what to make of it, but it’s definitely a dazzling constellation. Thx for sharing!

  • 14. Sorongo  |  March 12th, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    That’s true, since today’s Plena lacks in polyrhythm, however, Plena was way more complex than how it is approached nowadays. I’ve just recently discovered this a few yrs ago throug my interaction with Unico (not sure if you know him) but he is very well versed in many of the patterns or golpes from Mayaguez that were pretty much standard in Plena. The pattern I learned on the pandero referred to as La hermana or seguidor (the biggest size drum) holds a pattern that is nearly identical to that of the dem bow rhythm. Here’s just one example:

    Although you dont see it, I’m playing the bigger drum behind the camcorder.

  • 15. wayneandwax  |  March 12th, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    Nice clip! I totally hear what you’re talking about, and I’m glad to learn a little more about plena’s stylistic history. Interestingly, I’ve talked with some bomberos who tell similar stories about a modern convergence toward rhythmic and formal orthodoxy, and who are interested in recuperating other bomba styles, esp from neglected/forgotten parts of the island.

    Of course, I guess the question remains: if this sort of plena playing is no longer prevalent, how many listeners would connect plena to the dembow?

    Better watch it with those percussion clips. I might have to get all Kutiman on em ;)


  • 16. Sorongo  |  March 13th, 2009 at 10:07 am

    The first time I was ever exposed to Plena (sometime in the late 90’s), the first thing I was able to associate it with was the dem bow rhythm. To me at least, I was able to draw a relationship, even without knowing how to play it. Although the clip I provided shows one aspect of Plena that has been largely forgotten, if you listen closely to Cortijo’s Plenas, you will hear the syncopation that is emphasized in reggaeton. What’s also interesting is that Puerto Ricans very early on were able to establish relationships with Plena and Calypso back in the 50’s and 60’s. For instance, when Ismael Rivera recorded with Lito Peña, he even recorded a plena/calypso singing in English. Also, El Gran Combo recorded a Plena/Calypso on their first album. To me, dem bow is just a very common rhythmic pattern that is so prevalent throughout the African-Diaspora that it is hard to attribute its origins to one specific country or nationality. Now, I think what the Jamaicans did was via dancehall; they helped reintroduce Puerto Ricans to a rhythmic pattern that was there all along. Here’s another clip of a musical tradition called “Kase-ko” which is based in French Guyana:

    Uploaded by JP_ANTONY
  • 17. wayneandwax  |  March 13th, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    Thanks for the “kase-ko” clip. Great example of yet another Caribbean 3+3+2 instantiation.

    I totally agree with your larger point about the prevalence of this pattern. Indeed, way back in my first post on reggaeton I attempted to articulate the pan-Caribbeanness of that rhythmic figure:

    of course, the 3+3+2 subdivision is common to all kinds of caribbean styles. you can thread it through reggae and mento, soca and calypso, son and salsa, merengue and meringue. but when it comes down to it, especially when we’re talking about kicks and snares playing the 3+3+2, reggae has come to claim this rhythmic pattern.

    I do maintain that the rhythm is heard most often today as a reggae rhythm (at least at “mid-tempo” speeds, say around 100bpm — at a faster pace it more likely signifies soca), though I would hasten to acknowledge that Jamaican music has always been informed by transnational/regional circulation (esp, at mid20C, by son/mambo/rumba from Cuba and calypso from T&T), so that ol’ boom-ch-boom-chick is by no means solely the property of Jamaican musicians. And, of course, it depends on the listener.

    If you haven’t checked it out, I attempt to make some of these pan-Caribbean & Afrodiasporic connections, as well as to challenge their Afro-particularity (by bringing in the same patterns as found, say, in Middle Eastern music), in my Another Crunk Genealogy mix, which includes — you’ll be happy to hear — a pretty polyrhythmic plena by Cortijo/Maelo (over which I mek Q-Tip rap for a spell).

  • 18. wayneandwax  |  March 21st, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    further on this convo, got this via email from my man anton (“el polaco bombero”) in chicago:

    Aha! That’s my guy Sorongo on there – he is getting at something very important in those posts… The steady “four-on-the-floor” thump of contemporary plena is of very recent derivation. As far as I can tell, the basic rhythm of plena everywhere on the island back in the day was a 3+2+2 rhythm, with the two (the use of three is also of quite recent derivation) panderos playing fluid variations of stock patterns that interwove and “spoke” to each other… lol – quite different from what people will generally recognize as plena today… there were also styles that used a double headed drum very similar to – and quite likely derive from – drums used in haiti/d.r., played with sticks and marking a triplet, 3 over 2 feel…. you heard a hint of the old feel of plena on those recordings I played for you a while back… Yo,while on the subject of frame drums, I got to hear a number of recordings of tambrin music from Tobago hanging out with Ken – very very interesting stuff….

    I attached a good example of old plena – from the “street” – and here’s a link to an old group from Mayaguez that played plena with elements of jibaro music in it. This group’s music was hitherto only available on old and hard to find wax…

  • 19. » A&hellip  |  April 3rd, 2009 at 9:53 am

    […] In Puerto Rico, plena refers to street music played on panderetas (see, e.g., Sorongo’s comments here). […]

  • 20. Luna Morado  |  August 5th, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    maximum respect!
    i’ve listened to your mix. impressive! i’ve recently started to learn to mix reggaeton (with radio edited songs :)) and after hearing your set, i know my selection is good! thank you! i enjoyed the whole set!
    saludos desde croatia, balkan! :)

  • 21. Christopher  |  September 14th, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    First, I’m glad I stumbled upon this blog- probably the most informed discussion of these types of issues anywhere, and lacking in the usual myths and (mostly incorrect) folklore that seems to permeate most writing about Jamaican music.

    Second, I’m gone to ask Clevie about the story behind Dem Bow and the Poco riddims (conveniently we’re having dinner this evening).

    I’m a bit surprised that no one seems to have asked him or Steely (who unfortunately passed away two weeks ago, RIP) about this, nor about some of the issues discussed in “The riddim method” paper, since they were both the writers and musicians on the vast majority of dancehall riddims from 1985 until the late 90s, and Steely in particular was the defacto producer in the actual sessions, regardless of who was funding the session. He could have also spoken with great authority on the pre-1985 era, since as keyboard player for the Radics he was instrumental in much of the late 70s and early 80s output from Channel One and Henry Junjo Lawes.

    Let me not, however, take away from this fabulous effort overall.

    * a point of correction to something written above – the “Poco” riddim, unlike “Dem Bow”, was a Steely & Clevie production, not a Bobby Digital production.

  • 22. Christopher  |  September 15th, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    I had a brief convo with Clevie this evening about Dem Bow / Poco – unfortunately I have the flu and my head is full of drugs, so we didn’t talk long.

    He gave me a bit of the story about their inspiration for the riddim, but I’m going to save that for when we can have a more detailed discussion.

    What was as interesting was that he said there was a guy who used to work at the VP retail store in Queens, who used to give copies of the latest popular dancehall instrumentals to El General, I’m assuming this would be late 80s and it was before EG was recording. Someone (Karl Miller I assume) heard him and decided to record him, thus “El Pun Tun” from the Little Lenny track and so on. EG was living in New York at this time from what I understand, so although people always tout the Panama Jamaica connection, I think it was more a case of the great New York melting pot connection.

    Clevie also said that when someone asked EG about his music he said it had a “reggae tone”, implying that this was the etymology of the term “reggaeton”

    Like I said, we only spoke for a bit, but we did decide that we should sit down and actually talk about these things on video so that they can be preserved, since one more stalwart has left us – believe me Steely’s knowledge of music was encyclopedic, and he had a photographic memory, it is a tragedy that that is lost to the world now.

  • 23. w&w  |  September 15th, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    Thanks for all this, Christopher. I look forward to hearing more, and I couldn’t agree more strongly that it’s imperative to continue building the oral history of reggae. I really wish I’d had the gumption, or the links, to approach Steely before he left us. (And I write this this evening, reflecting on the sudden passing of Trevor Rhone, with whom I actually did have an opportunity to chat.)

    I’m quite with you, by the way, on the NY melting pot being more responsible for “Tu Pun Pun,” in a sense, than the JA-Panama connection per se. I basically make that point in my essay in the reggaeton book, where I really try to make a case for NYC’s centrality in that story. Interesting anecdote, btw, about “reggae tone”! Hadn’t heard that one.

  • 24. » d&hellip  |  January 18th, 2010 at 11:15 am

    […] 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 […]

  • 25. » M&hellip  |  April 29th, 2010 at 9:59 am

    […] of his on YouTube, “Dembow Dynamics,” knowing that I’m a big fan of all things dembow. The email simply read: I’m not sure if you guys do promo stuff but let me know if you like […]

  • 26. Luna Morado  |  June 11th, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    hi, wayne!

    i truly respect what you do!
    i’m addicted to dembow and listen to reggaeton every day! (i don’t like this new electro sound of reggaeton, but more of this raw dembow sound) :)

    i wanted to ask you for 5 minutes of your time and your opinion on a dembow remix i made of macaco’s song “gacho el peleon”. something like reggaeton mestizo.
    it is because i consider you to be an expert on this subject and it would mean a lot to me! :)

    here is the link:

    there are some things i still have to fix but this is it for now.

    thank you very much in advance!

  • 27. wayneandwax  |  June 16th, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    hey luna,

    it’s an interesting track! thanks for sharing. you’ve definitely crammed your share of dembow beats into that one. it’s often quite dense! sometimes i want a little more variation in the drum sounds, but i like that the track’s form changes shape over the duration.

    i’m very curious to hear more about how you got into reggaeton in croatia!


  • 28. Luna Morado  |  June 18th, 2010 at 11:39 am

    hi, wayne!
    first, thank you for your constructive advice!! this is actually my first remix (besides some editing and extending i did). i guess the structure of the song and this drum “minimalism” has something to do with psy trance, i was listening to it intensively long ago :)
    how i got into reggaeton here in croatia? hehe, you are not the first to ask me that :)

    eight years ago i started djing reggae, dub, ska but roots never interested me. i was influenced by uk punky reggae scene very much before i’ve found the compilation fuerza! (manu chao, sergent garcia, macaco, amparanoia…) and it was the best thing i’ve heard until then! i still dj this music and i collected a lot in eight years.
    latin music fascinates me because it has so many styles and it evolves! especially mestizo music – every style is welcome! endless possibilities!!
    anyway, i’ve listened to some dancehall and i still like to dance to it but when i heard reggaeton it was more powerful! i can’t explain but dembow beat does something for me :) i still remember the moment i’ve heard gasolina, wow, and that second part of the song was so dangerous!! later i’ve started wondering where are the women in reggaeton and found many of them (actually first i was wondering who was that woman (glory) singing with daddy yankee – and why wasn’t she mentioned?!). i kinda feel like a bandolera :)
    now it is a nice hobby to me. i dj mostly in ljubljana, slovenija (european union) because there are people from all over the world who love reggaeton. in croatia (not in european union) the situation with reggaeton is moving a bit slower but i’m patient ;) i learned you cannot force culturological things, everything in its time :)

    here is a little mix for you:
    i hope you’ll like it!

    take care & keep up the good work!

    lunatica ~ con el flow dembow*

    ps. once again, thanx for your time and your comment on my mix!

  • 29. dj el nino  |  June 25th, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    the ever growing “dembow” debate………

    shabba ranks dembow is on 2 riddims the poco man jam which is the version everyone recognizes and the actual “dembow” riddim

  • 30. wayneandwax  |  June 25th, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    Interesting that you commented here today, El Niño, as I’m actually readying yet another new post about the great dembow debate — and this time rekindling the claim that it’s all about Panama, more or less. Aka, the story of the Pounder riddim.

    As for the two “Dem Bow” recordings — I’ve never heard the song on the Poco Man Jam riddim. Do you have a copy of that? To my ears, the Poco Man Jam riddim, though featuring a similar drum pattern and produced around the same time, is distinct from the backing to “Dem Bow,” and both have been used in reggaeton productions (as has Pounder, which is basically a version of Dem Bow by a Panamanian and a Jamaican — both based in New York — and round and round we go). The Poco Man riff crops up, ironically, in the first track on this mini-mix, “Son Bow (instrumental),” which is really just a hodge-podge of early 90s dancehall riddims (not to mention a Missy Elliott sample), which just shows again how often the two (three?) are conflated.

  • 31. » N&hellip  |  December 23rd, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    […] funny — and telling, in a lost-in-translation-but-who-cares sorta way — is that the centerpiece of the song is a sample of the part of Belafonte’s […]

  • 32. » D&hellip  |  January 7th, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    […] less versed in the twisted transformations of Shabba’s “Dem Bow” into reggaeton’s dembow might be a little perplexed […]

  • 33. Mixpak Records » Ro&hellip  |  January 13th, 2012 at 10:43 am

    […] even lends its name to a whole new genre out of the Dominican Republic (for the full intro head to Wayne & Wax). NYC’s Robzilla has thankfully put a bunch of tracks that take influence from Dem Bow, from […]

  • 34. Sandungueo – gueo &&hellip  |  January 14th, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    […] (long) night was a cross spectrum of diaspora dance sounds, from the dembow of Dj Wyldlyfe, to full-out moombahton of Sazon Booya, to the bailefunk of DJ Comrade (shouts on […]

  • 35. w&w  |  March 29th, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    Just making a note of another instance of the chorus melody/phoneme from “Dem Bow” turning up again, this time in Serani’s “Day Mi Born” (2010):

  • 36. Zunguzunguzeng Megamix &l&hellip  |  April 3rd, 2013 at 9:40 am

    […] a similar experience in other riddims and sounds, check Wayne’s tracing of ‘Dem Bow’ and John Eden’s ‘Boops Specialist’ […]

  • 37. » D&hellip  |  July 25th, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    […] For now, head over to RBMA for their slick version, see below for the full monty, & check out this video I whipped up (also at the RBMA site & embedded below) to see & hear how the various versions all relate. If you want to get even more dembow in your ears, there’s lots to find around the web, but here are a couple of mixes I’ve made that focus on it: Dembow Legacies, Dembow Dem. […]


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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