The real story of Nada’s past year is a bit more involved. After that happy accident in the basement, he began honing the sound in the studio. This March, he emerged with a five-song Moombahton promo EP, released for free via Tittsworth and DJ Ayres’s T&A Records. That month, Nada and his production partner Matt Nordstrom (they perform together as Nadastrom) created the first official Moombahton remix, and the influential Fool’s Gold label from New York commissioned a Moombahton mixtape for its podcast, featuring tracks from Nada and other DJs. Other Moombahton releases from Nada and Nadastrom followed.
In the meantime, Moombahton had caught the attention of a Rotterdam-born novice DJ with Dominican roots named Rayiv Münch, better known by his nom de Web, Munchi. “I was broke and missed the last train and i was like ‘FUCK, that means no party today,’” he writes in an e-mail. “So I went home and started to check out some blogs, and I found this site and saw this Moombahton thing of Dave Nada…. It was like finally getting home or something. The idea was so simple, yet I heard the potential. It was so perfect because Dutch house had blown up and reggaeton had me disappointed for a long time. Being a reggaeton head, I was trying to blend reggaeton with all these genres …I started making the [Moombahton] EP that same night.”
With his only interactions with scenester peers taking place online, Munchi in April began releasing a string of Moombahton tracks that managed to catch the attention of taste-making bloggers. A Dominican kid from Rotterdam was globalizing the sound of a Latino kid from Maryland.
From there, Nada, who already had a following thanks to Nadastrom’s material, had an easy time finding the right ears. He broke out Moombahton at an Olympics party in Vancouver in February. Fool’s Gold’s Nick Catchdubs picked up on Moombahton in March. At the massive South by Southwest music conference in Austin that month, DJs were playing Moombahton at parties Nada hadn’t even been invited to. Diplo, the Philadelphia DJ who is one of America’s most influential dance music producers, began spinning the sound live, ultimately creating his own Moombahton-style remix. Munchi caught the wave, too: By fall, he was in the studio with Diplo and with Pharrell, of the very mainstream hip-hop production unit The Neptunes.
For the most part, Nada spent the summer here, working Moombahton’s sound with Monday-night appearances at the Velvet Lounge. By the end of his stint there, the music had outgrown the small U Street NW venue. “It was packed every time, and he had candles going, and this whole atmosphere to it. By the end, it was a party no different than what we would have on a weekend night,” says Andrew Bucket, Velvet’s booker.
Other DJs, meanwhile, began creating Moombahton spinoffs. Munchi brought in echoes of Colombian cumbia and the Angolan sounds known as kuduro, and later transformed Moombahton into the harder-edged Moombahcore. An Austin DJ created “Boombahchero,” blending the sound with Mexican guarachero. Nada estimates more than 100 DJs have now toyed with Moombahton. Soundcloud, the favored music hosting service of many musicians and producers, features more than 500 Moombahton tracks.
And while certain corners of the blogosphere pushed the genre hard, Moombahton found some detractors—somewhat surprisingly, the practitioners of the sound that inspired it, Dutch house. “The Dutch folks kind of look down on it,” says Tittsworth. (Dutch producer Afrojack, who created the “Moombah” remix that Nada originally slowed down, did not respond to a request for comment.)
Even Nada admits that not every Moombahton remix out there is worthwhile—much of it comes down to fairly lazy, slower versions of fast songs. “Fishing through Soundcloud, like any genre, there’s a lot of busted tracks,” he says.
Moombahton gained chroniclers even as it attracted critics. Wayne Marshall, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology ethnomusicologist who co-edited a scholarly book about reggaeton, wrote an essay praising Moombahton as part of a new kind of unforced world music made possible by diverse artists in far-flung locales. Closer to earth, Rolling Stone singled out Moombahton in an October print item on “Nano-Scenes.”
Of course, the magazine listed Moombahton’s key artists as “DJ Dava Nada and a bunch of random people on Soundcloud.com.” And its item described “scenes where the people making the music almost outnumber those listening to it.”
Citing a packed Austin gig from last month, Nada said it wasn’t so—at least not anymore. He was pretty sure the “hot chicks” who crowded into the show weren’t mere dance-music dorks.