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Moombahton: Born In D.C., Bred Worldwide

Dave Nada (left) and Matt Nordstrom make up Nadastrom. (Courtesy of the artist)

Every other day, it seems, some new buzzword is 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 horrorcore, theatrical post-wave and nu-rave, though I'm sure that some of the artists themselves would argue with these terms. The labels pop up all the time, and most develop in a specific geographical locations. Moombahton is different.

In November 2009, at the request of his cousin, D.C.-based DJ Dave Nada, of the house duo Nadastrom, agreed to spin for a group of high school students who 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, 'All right, 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 lo 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.

Reggaeton, which became popular in Caribbean and Latin American communities in the middle of the past decade, is a slower 108 beats per minute. A blend of reggae, dance hall, 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," says Nada.

"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 "midtempo 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 Winter Olympics in 2010, inspiring future moombahtonistas like DJ Lucie Tic from Toronto. Back in D.C., Nada started a weekly party called Moombahton Mondays at a dive named Velvet Lounge in the U Street Corridor. These were intimate affairs where D.C.'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.

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, Alberta; Jon Kwest in Baltimore; DJ Heartbreak in Charlotte, N.C.; DJ Apt One in Philadelphia; Boyfriend in Vilnius, Lithuania; Brodinski in Paris.

Twenty-one-year-old Rotterdam-based producer Rayiv Munch, or Munchi, first heard Nada's work online. A Dutchman of Dominican descent, he couldn't believe what he'd found.

"When I heard 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 hourlong Moombahton segment live on the air. Soon, Diplo's label Mad Decent will release a Moombahton compilation featuring work from 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 intracerebral hemorrhage and fell into coma. He's since awakened 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 record label T&A, 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 spawn 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 subgenres. After all, it's already a few days old.

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Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

Every day, it seems, some new buzzword pops up to describe the latest sound in music. There are countless new genres and subgenres to the point where it becomes hard to keep up and even harder to figure out where the latest craze came from.

Well, fortunately, NPR has Sami Yenigun to clue us in to the latest in dance music. It's called Moombahton, and it started here in Washington, D.C.

SAMI YENIGUN: It all started at a skipping party.

Mr. DAVE NADA (Producer and DJ, Nadastrom): In the hopes of not getting anyone in trouble, yeah, a skipping party is when kids basically play hooky and throw a basement party at their friend's house.

YENIGUN: Dave Nada is one-half of the duo Nadastrom. He's a DJ and a producer from Washington, D.C.

In 2009, at the request of his little cousin, Nada agreed to spin for a group of class-cutting kids. But when he showed up to play, there was a problem.

Mr. NADA: The kids that were all there were listening to not what I would be playing. They were listening to reggaeton and bachata, like Latin music.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Group #1: (Singing in foreign language)

Mr. NADA: I was like, all right, I don't want to mess up the vibe and play fast techno electro...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NADA: ...club music.

(Soundbite of song, "Moombah")

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) Turn up the bass.

Mr. NADA: This is the kind of music I had, and I thought to myself, I was like, whoa, what if I slow down these records that I have? And I slowed down this one track called "Moombah," and lo and behold, it popped off.

(Soundbite of song, "Moombah")

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) Turn up the bass.

YENIGUN: When Nada saw the crowd reaction, he knew he'd struck gold, and this is how dance music's hottest new genre began.

(Soundbite of song, "Moombah")

YENIGUN: At a basement level, Moombahton is a cross between Dutch house music and reggaeton, a blend of West Indian and Latin styles that grew up in Puerto Rico. Nada added to this foundation...

Mr. NADA: Latin vocals and certain rhythms like the popular action riddim.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. NADA: There's dembow, which is like...

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. NADA: Or like a cumbia, like shake, with like...

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #2: (Singing) Cumbia.

Mr. NADA: And also thinking about certain arrangements in house music where the beat drops out, and you have really dramatic builds and then the beat comes back in.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #3: (Singing) The place rocks. We're going to do it.

(Soundbite of music)

YENIGUN: These parts all come together at a slowed down tempo of 108 beats per minute.

(Soundbite of music)

YENIGUN: Unlike most genres, the sound took hold internationally before it got big in any one place. DJ Diplo, who has a reputation for exposing smaller genres to larger audiences, explains.

DIPLO (DJ): It was global from the beginning. It was something like dubstep that was sort of like centered in London and then moved to, you know, America and Canada and, you know, Australia, but the Moombahton just happened everywhere, man. I was getting things from all over the place.

YENIGUN: One of those places was Rotterdam, where the 21-year-old producer Munchi first heard Dave Nada's work online.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Group #2: (Singing in foreign language)

YENIGUN: A Dutchman of Dominican decent, he couldn't believe what he'd found.

MUNCHI (Producer): When I heard that, it was like: This is what I have to do. This is what I was searching for. And then the same night that I heard it, I made the whole "Moombahton" EP and put it online. And then after that, it kind of blew up, you know?

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Woman #1: (Singing in foreign language)

YENIGUN: Just putting his own work online, Munchi's gained a lot of attention and has already 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 for a sexier feel.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Woman #2: (Singing in foreign language)

YENIGUN: In the upcoming month, Diplo's label Mad Decent is putting out a Moombahton compilation that will feature work from Dave Nada, Munchi and many more producers who met each other over an Internet connection.

DIPLO: It's like a whole community thing, like a family, I guess.

YENIGUN: And it's a family that looks out for its members.

Just two days after I spoke to Munchi, he suffered an intracerebral hemorrhage and fell into a coma. He since woken and is recovering, but he's been slammed with medical bills. These friends that he's made online, through making Moombahton, they're throwing him a party in April to help pay his expenses.

Sami Yenigun, NPR News.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Woman #3: (Singing in foreign language)

SIEGEL: And you can hear more moombahton at our music news blog at npr.org/therecord.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Woman #3: (Singing in foreign language) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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