The dembow beat or dembow riddim is a musical rhythm best known for its use as the core percussion element in reggaeton music, having taken its name from the 1990 dancehall song "Dem Bow" by Shabba Ranks. The rhythm, first developed by Jamaican and Panamanian producers in the early 1990s[1] as reggaeton was beginning to form, employs the tresillo pattern that is common in Latin American music and ultimately originates in sub-Saharan African musical traditions.


The dembow rhythm is usually employed as a loop, in line with reggaeton's mainly electronic production. Described as having a "bounce", it has a 3+3+2 (tresillo) cross-rhythm with a slight syncopation on every other half-beat.[2]

While dembow is the main building block of the reggaeton genre, similar modern rhythms can be found in Africa with the genres of afrobeats, on account of their common ancestry. There are also connections with Arabic music, credited to "cross-pollination" between Spain, the Arab world, and sub-Saharan Africa.[2][3]


At the beginning of the 1990s, there existed several closely related Jamaican-origin dancehall riddims revolving around a "boom-ch-boom-chick" sound such as the "Bam Bam riddim" or the "Fever Pitch riddim". Added to this group was the beat of Shabba Ranks' song "Dem Bow", which became known as the "Dem Bow riddim".[1][4] The song's popularity resulted in the adoption of the "dem bow" name to describe the entire nascent genre that would eventually come to be known as reggaeton.[5][1]

The term "dembow" today commonly refers simply to the drum beat of reggaeton, which, while retaining its core "boom-ch-boom-chick" sound, has stylistic variations.[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "Dembow: A Loop History". Retrieved 2024-01-29.
  2. ^ a b "Migration of a Groove: the Dembow Rhythm Around the World". Bandcamp Daily. 2022-05-11. Retrieved 2024-01-29.
  3. ^ Room, World Music Central News (2006-11-10). "The Rough Guide to Latin-Arabia | World Music Central". Retrieved 2024-01-29.
  4. ^ sj (2019-05-14). "The Loop That Stuck: Dem Bow". Medium. Retrieved 2024-01-29.
  5. ^ Pettersson, Edvard (20 October 2023). "Reggaeton stars ask judge to throw out copyright case over 'dembow riddim'". Courthouse News Service.