Long before the “mash-up,” electronic music was combining varied influences in the name of getting a reaction on the dance floor. From tech-house, which is now commonplace, to moombahton, the latest concoction heating up clubs, cross-pollination is one of dance music’s central tenets—the thing that keeps it forever hovering on the cutting edge.
It was Dave Nada, one half of D.C. production duo Nadastrom with partner Matt Nordstrom, who presided over moombahton’s moment of creation. Back in 2009, as a favor to his younger cousin, he played a high-school “skipping” party, a midafternoon basement session populated with predominantly Latino teens playing hooky and getting down to an exclusively reggaeton soundtrack.
“It started off just me throwing down a couple of records, trying to match the tempo of the reggaeton that was being played, and lo and behold, that shit sounded amazing,” Nada says on the phone in between sound checking at Orlando’s House of Blues, where Nadastrom is playing alongside dubstep star Skrillex (a testament to moombahton’s popularity).
As suggested by the situation that led to its birth, moombahton is a mixture of the Dutch house made popular by artists like Afrojack and DJ Chuckie slowed down to be mixable with the urban Puerto Rican sounds of reggaeton. At the fateful basement bash, the specific track Nada used was Afrojack’s remix of Silvio Ecomo and Chuckie’s “Moombah!” Voilà: moombahton.
“I always felt like a lot of the Dutch house reminded me of reggaeton—except sped up—because it has the dembow rhythm in it,” the 33-year-old continues, referring to reggaeton’s signature chugging beat (which was in turn borrowed from Jamaican dancehall anthem “Dem Bow” by Shabba Ranks, yet another example of the musical food chain). “Hearing how well it was received, I decided to make a bunch of edits, dig up a bunch of records I felt could sound good and add a couple of new elements—percussion, drums and a cappellas from reggaeton.”
Nada put his head together with Nordstrom, also 33, to release a handful of genre-centric EPs as ammunition for hip-hop and Latin DJs. Given away on the Internet for free, the sound went viral thanks to its electro energy, Latin drumming and mostly Spanish vocals. Though their previous collaborations have skipped from electro to house to Baltimore club to fidgit, another hybrid dance style, the pair now focuses almost exclusively on moombahton.
“It’s refreshing to play something that’s at midtempo,” Nordstrom says. “It’s a fun tempo to work with.”
Besides being a change of pace for DJs, it’s also opened up clubs to a larger Latin demographic. “Just traveling, especially in the U.S., Latin kids are excited to hear something that they grew up listening to traditionally get a new take,” Nada says.
Stateside and abroad, the sound is ramping up in popularity. For Nada and Nordstrom, there are too many emerging talents to name, but they do cite Sabo, who is a regular contributor to their Moombahton Massive nights in D.C.
Global bass-music icon Diplo has also picked up on it, tapping Nada to do the first commercial all-moombahton compilation for his Mad Decent label last year. L.A. rising talent Dillon Francis is another artist playing with the rhythm to huge success, giving it more mainstream appeal by stripping out the Latin elements.
“It just went wild and caught on,” Nada concludes. “Next thing you know, you’ve got amazing producers from all around the world taking their stab at it.”
Nadastrom’s moombahton party joins the Tomorrow Never Knows festival at Metro on Friday 13.