In the early 2000s, just as reggaetoneros pushed for mainstream recognition, a movement in the Dominican Republic using fast-paced “fever pitch” Jamaican riddims was slowly gaining popularity. Dominican dembow has evolved since then, incorporating Brazilian funk and hip-hop’s synthesized sounds.
Dembow’s organic rise towards international airwaves is significant—considering the obstacles set up against the movement. From the lack of resources to the little support received from urbano outlets and rap pioneers.
Inspired by the rise of reggae en español and the riddims popularized by Jamaican artists like Shabba Ranks, the young generation in the ‘90s growing up in the poorest neighborhoods of Santo Domingo became tastemakers using whatever they had to make music, learning programs like Fruity Loops with no guidance and finding alternatives to creating specific sounds.
“We come from an era that recorded with cassettes, we would put the instrumentals in another radio while rapping because there was no money or resources—nor did they sell it in our country,” says producer/composer KNS, who currently works educating dembowseros in Spain on the industry and publishing. Established rappers avoided being associated with dembowseros and their producers throughout the early ‘90s and ‘00s— also known as the “messy era” of dembow.
The velocity of the BPM range, which today rarely falls lower than 110 BPM, was not yet perfected. Among the marginalized was DJ Boyo, who created what is considered the first Dominican dembow, “Mujeres Andadoras,” in 1991.