Thursday, May 10th, 2018

Amara La Negra – What a Bam Bam

More like “what a jam jam,” am I right?

Leonel Manzanares de la Rosa: Sadly, Afrolatinos are still subjects of scrutiny and discrimination, even — or dare I say, especially — among others in the vast spectrum of Latin American identity, which makes this anthem meant to empower single, black girls all the more poignant. It is also a triumph in intertextuality: The track moves around the (obvious) Sister Nancy sample, but in her lyrics and flow she also echoes a long history of Panamanian dembow (from the early reggae en español through the ciento diez), 90’s Nuyorican underground (think Ivy Queen’s The Noise era) and of course the early Dominican scene. You can pretty much track twenty-five years of musical development in these three and a half minutes.

Nortey Dowuona: Zipping bass slides from side to side as clipped, rattling drums slide underneath the careening horn and vocal samples of “Bam Bam” as Amara burns away the underbrush with a slinky, steel croon.

Edward Okulicz: Amara La Negra oozes self-assuredness in two languages. This moves at a rapid clip, but the beats and bass are so crisp and the track so uncluttered it comes across as welcoming and not overwhelming. Sure, she’s not singing this song for me, but she makes me feel about a foot taller and also like I can dance.

Alfred Soto: A compelling synthesis of several Latin American genres held together by Amara’s control and her way of seeming to cock an eyebrow.

Iain Mew: It takes some confidence to use that sample that freely and not be resigned to it running rings round you. Amara’s confidence is not misplaced.

Katherine St Asaph: It is May and still cardigan weather; it just stands to reason that when it finally gets warm, to make up for lost time every song’s gonna need to be three summer jams in one.

Jonathan Bogart: The beat is primitive dembow of the 90s Panamanian-Nuyorican school, and the sample is a classic 1982 Jamaican dancehall interpretation of the 1966 rocksteady song which also lends “What a Bam Bam” its title. But without Amara’s infectious personality-driven vocals, it would be just another retro sunshiney beat: her quick-fire changes from Spanish to English, singing to toasting, boasting to crooning, make it a summer jam that hits every one of my pleasure centers.

Reader average: [5.66] (6 votes)

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