The Story of Bam Bam's Famous Lyrics and Beat.
Updated: May 8
In 1966 Toots and the Maytals entered the Jamaica Festival Song Competition with a nyabinghi flavoured song called "Bam Bam". The music competition was introduced to promote the newly emerging Jamaican popular music, which had created ska, nyahbinghi and rock steady music at that point. Nyahbinghi roots music emerged from the Rastafarian movement as ritual music for a ceremony known as a Grounation.
Influenced by the tradition of Burru drumming, the main instruments of the ceremony were the Funde, Kette and Repeater drums accompanied with chants which were a fusion of christian hymns and traditional religious forms. Count Ossie is among the main influencers in the formation of this drumming ritual. Eventually, pioneers such as Count Ossie and Ras Michael commercialised a version of the music.
"Bam Bam", written by Toots Hibbert, was recorded with strong nyahbinghi characteristics. However, the nyabinghi drums were low in the final mix of the original recording, probably due to the production house that made the song. The song lyrics included the now-famous lines.
This man,(adlib) don't trouble no man (adlib) But if you should trouble this man It going to bring a a bam bam bam bam (adlib) oh yea
Bam Bam won the competition and has become one of the most influential and popular songs globally. Spanning innumerable versions of the music and lyrics is arguably among the most recognised melodies created In Kingston.
Let's look at the history of this song which is one of the most significant works of art that supports my formulation of the Creative Echo Chamber.
Yellowman was among the first to redo the song; his version was very popular among early dancehall fans and even got its fair share of radio play.
In the Nineties, singjay Pliers revisited the Toots version when he was about to leave the studio after completing the voicing for the now classic Murder She Wrote with Chaka Demus. Pliers realised that the lyrics for Bam Bam fit the newly minted reggae bangara sound created by Sly Dunbar, Herbie Harris and Lloyd Gitsy Willis.
Afrobeats star Tiwa Savage and reggae star Patoranking teamed up for the "Girlie O" track, where Tiwa savage belts out the famous "this man" line paying tribute to Toots and Jamaican music. This underscores the connection between Jamaican and Nigerian music.
Following in the footsteps of Yellowman, Sister Nancy, who needed a song to complete her album "One Two" for producer Winston Riley, heard the Yellowman version and decided to do a version of the song to complete the album. This was a standard practice where artists would redo a version of any popular song.
The song also re-used the "Stalag 17" riddim originally done by Ancel Collins for Winston Riley. Collins or Riley got the name for the recording from a popular 1953 prisoner of war movie of the same name, starring William Holden.
The song did not make any major headway. Still, it gradually became a cult classic that has been sampled more than any other Jamaican recording and has been used in several movies and television commercials.
Sister Nancy Bam Bam Samples
Lauryn Hill, a long time fan of reggae and dancehall music, used the melody and sample for her classic song Lost Ones. Taken from her Grammy winning album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
Kanye West used a sample for the track "Famous", featuring Rhianna and Swizz Beatz from the Life of Pablo album.
For the song "Bam", Jay Z teamed up with reggae superstar Damian Marley to pay tribute to the connection between reggae and hip hop with Sister Nancy's Bam Bam as the soundtrack.
H.E.R. has expressed her appreciation of Jamaican music in her song "Do To Me." The track samples Bam Bam and the melody of the original. She also collaborated with Skip Marley on “Slow Down”.
Amara La Negra's sample of "Bam Bam" in the song "What a Bam Bam" demonstrates the link between Afro-Latin music and Jamaica.