Hot New Sound: Moombahton Goes Boom!
A dance-music hybrid bumps and shakes its way from Washington, D.C., to the world.
Moombahton came about because I didn’t want to get beaten up,” jokes 32-year-old Washington, D.C.–based DJ and producer Dave Nada about the origins of his homegrown dance genre. In the fall of 2009 Nada — one-half of production duo Nadastrom, alongside Matt Nordstrom — agreed to play a “school-skipping party” for his younger cousin. But when he arrived, teens were dancing to the fast tropical rhythms of reggaeton and bachata — not a good sign considering that Nada typically spun house and club music.
So he improvised, slowing Dutch house DJ Afro-jack’s “Moombah” remix from a pounding 129 bpm to a cooled-out, reggaeton-friendly 108. The revelers promptly turned the small basement from a mere party to a raucous blowout. Intrigued, Nada began editing ?existing dance tracks, creating chopped and screwed beats, tweaking drum and synth patterns, and adding Latin vocals that turned Euro-house bangers into sexier, less frenetic grooves. After months of experimentation, the DJ debuted his remixes at a Vancouver party during the 2010 Olympics and then released his free Moombahton EP. Producer Diplo was an early fan, inviting Nada to curate the recent Blow Your Head Vol. 2 Moombahton compilation for his own Mad Decent label.
Since 2010, Nada’s experiment has spawned a handful of upstarts that have taken advantage of the genre’s malleability. (Nada says Moombahton has “no real rules beyond working within a 108 bpm range.”) The most popular so far, surpassing even Nada, is Munchi, a 21-year-old Dutchman who released heavily club-influenced Moombahton tracks after discovering Nada’s music on SoundCloud. His frequent production partner David Heartbreak, on the other hand, prefers tracks with hip-hop and soul inflections. DJ Sabo, founder of tropical-flavored label Sol Selectas, adds a different spice. “I can be more organic by incorporating Latin sounds,” he explains. “But I add electronic elements, which also makes the music accessible to people outside of the Latin community.”
So far this year Moombahton artists have been booked at electronic-music festivals from Barcelona (Sonar) to Copenhagen (Distortion). Stateside, Nadastrom and Sabo have launched a traveling party series called Moombahton Massive, which features a rotating cast of DJs, including Munchi, Heartbreak, Dillon Francis, and DJ Melo. They’ll hit D.C., Los Angeles, New York, and Austin this month and next, with each gathering aiming to re-create the sweaty, rump-shaking, improvised spirit that inspired Nada’s eureka moment.
This fall, Nadastrom will also tour behind their El Baile Diabluma EP, their first effort to feature mostly original Moombahton tracks (i.e., only one remix). “The Diabluma is an Ecuadoran mythological creature that breaks into your living room during Carnivale,” explains Nada. “It dances around causing mayhem until you bribe it with alcohol to leave.” Whether it would so easily slip away from a Moombahton Massive, though, is yet to be determined.
LISTEN: Nadastrom’s UHall Residency Mix