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Moombahton 101: How Dembow Married Dutch House & Diplo Got Boobs

A Party-Starting Primer in 9 Steps

We can say this with confidence: in 2012, no song will be safe from a moombahton remix. And that’s not a bad thing.

Over the last few years, moombahton has blasted out of Washington DC, ricocheted hysterically around the internet, and landed squarely in Serato crates at fashionable parties the world over. The sound proved irresistible on the dance floor – slow and sexy like reggaeton, but hard-edged like house at the same time. It could get a Latin or tropical bass crowd grinding, but was accessible to more mainstream clubgoers at the same time. Moombahton makes you dance, end of story. And with more and more big names like Diplo, Laidback Luke, and even rapper Wale signing on to the style and current dubstep demigod Skrillex’s involvement in the growing “moombahcore” offshoot, the genre’s progressive world domination is looking pretty inevitable.

For the uninitiated, we decided to put together a little Moombahton 101 primer, using 9 dirty dembow tracks that help tell the music’s story. Read on!

1. Dave Nada, “Moombahton”

The Origin Story

Dave Nada. Photo:Getty

Every superhero needs a good origin story, right? Well, Moombahton was bit by a radioactive spider named Dave Nada, an Ecuadorian-American DJ from Washington DC’s electronic dance music scene. As the story goes, Nada found himself spinning at his cousin’s high-school cut party with the wrong kind of music on his laptop.

Nada was armed with club music, but the kids had been getting down to reggaeton and bachata for hours. Not wanting to spark a riot, he decided to take a Dutch House track (the Afrojack remix of Silvio Ecomo & Chuckie’s “Moombah”) and slow it down to a magical, booty-friendly tempo called 108 bpm, giving the tune a groovier, reggaeton feel.

Reportedly, the crowd of underage DC Latinos proceeded to wild out, and a genre was born.

In March 2010, Dave Nada released an official version of that improvised remix on T&A records, titling the single “Moombahton.” The track clearly outlines the elements that would come to define the genre. There’s reggaeton’s sauntering “dembow” beat, originally based on a sample from Shabba Ranks “Dem Bow” and later adopted by Puerto Rican artists like Daddy Yankee for virtually all of their songs.

There’s the high-pitched, slippery, fire alarm synthesizers that define the “dirty” Dutch House sound. There are Spanish vocal samples, long breaks, and big drops. Mix it all together: “Midtempo Global Bass for the universe,” as Nada calls it on his website. Sabroso.

2. Munchi, “Sandungeo”

Enter the Munchi


Munchi. Photo: Newscom

About a year ago, a 21-year Dutch-Dominican kid from Rotterdam uploaded a track called “Sandungeo” to his Soundcloud page with the following note in the description:

“Damn. Today I heared of this new thing MOOMBAHTON and i straight up made this track on the spot. I was so stoked hearing about this, because this could be Reggeton’s chance to revive.”

That kid was Rayiv Münch, alias Munchi, and today he is one of the most in-demand moombahtoneros alive. Sure, Dave Nada was the genre’s founding father. But Munchi is moombahton’s Michelangelo, its auteur, its brilliant mind. Some people are just plain born with a gift, and Munchi’s gift is that every piece of music he touches turns into gooey, dembow-ridden, sonic gold.

Without any personal connection to Nada, Munchi read about moombahton on a blog one evening, got excited about the concept, and started making it himself immediately. As a Latino living in the eye of the Dutch House storm, the genre’s particular cultural blend spoke to him, and he has since helped the music grow by incorporating elements of other “global bass” genres into the mix: cumbia, kuduro, and baile funk, just to name a few.

3. Alvin Risk & Tittsworth, “Pendejas”

The Enduring Club-banger

Some songs just stand the test of time and “Pendejas” from Baltimore Club giant Jesse Tittsworth and Alvin Risk is one of them. The track is pretty simple: a spare dembow beat and sub bassline, then a nice long break. Then the drop comes, and it’s massive: the synths clucking like a giant neon electric chicken from another dimension. In a good way.

“Pendejas” was a big moombahton hit in early 2011 and has endured as one of the genre’s principal anthems.It was also one of the tunes featured in Toddla T’s “Moombahton Special” that aired on BBC Radio One last February.

It was a marquee moment – one of the most important stations for electronic dance music in all of Europe dedicating an entire program to moombahton and introducing the new sound to a larger world.

4. David Heartbreak, “Style & Grace”

Give That Moombah Some Soul

David Heartbreak

David Heartbreak, champion of "moombahsoul" (photo courtesy of artist)

This is electronic music after all, so it’s no surprise that moombahton was fractured into a zillion sub-genres shortly after its invention. One of the most enticing branches is moombahsoul – same dembow beat, but sumptuous, layered and soulful.

The producer behind the rise of the genre is Brooklyn-based David Heartbreak. He has independently put out an excellent 3-part series of Moombahsoul compilations, available for free download, and has made the sub-genre his personal specialty.

“Style & Grace,” is a Heartbreak production from his first Moombahsoul comp, and it gives a nice snapshot of the sound: hazy textures, fluttering things, and soulful samples (in this case, unmistakable bits of keyboard and vocals from Biggie’s “Big Poppa”).

5. Skinny Friedman, “B.M.F (Blowin’ Moombahton Fast)”


Skinny Friedman

Moombahton rap remixer Skinny Friedman (photo courtesy of the artist)

Moombahton lends itself well to remixing, and hip-hop remixes have been particularly popular. Maybe it’s the tempo – at (usually) 108 bpm, it’s way closer to rap tempos than other kinds of electronic music (which tends to be around 130 bpm).

Maybe it’s because moombahton’s producers have a closer connection to hip-hop than European house and techno guys do. Whatever the reasons may be, tossing a good hip-hop acapella over some driving dembow tends to have tasty results.

One of the earlier experiments with moombahrap (pretty sure I just made up that genre name on the spot right now) comes from Skinny Friedman, who took Rick Ross’ trap-rap anthem B.M.F and turned it into a spare piece of gangster dance music, with a little cumbia flavor to boot. Friedman is a leader in the field of crunk-moombahton fusion, having released an entire juicy album of the stuff, titled Trap Rave.

NEXT: Boobs become the unofficial Moombahton mascots

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