Sister Nancy – Bam Bam

7th December 2023 · 1980s, 1982, Music, Reggae

Let’s travel back to Jamaica in 1983 for Sister Nancy’s irrepressible dancehall reggae anthem Bam Bam, bringing a ray of sunshine to a cold winter’s day.

With a chorus melody inspired by a 1966 song of the same name from Toots and the Maytals, its music samples the riddim of Ansel Collins’s 1974 song Stalag 17.

Apparently it’s one of the most sampled reggae songs of all time, having been used by more than 100 artists including Kanye, Lauryn Hill, Beyonce and Jay-Z, though Nancy never received a penny in royalties for 32 years up to 2014.

It was only after she moved to the USA and her daughter notified her that Bam Bam was being used in a Reebok commercial in 2014 that she belatedly sought legal advice on how to get the rights to her own music.

As a result she earned compensation and 50% of the publishing rights, split with Toots Hibbert, who had first introduced the phrase Bam Bam in a song of that name in 1966 – though Nancy herself first heard it being covered by Yellowman and Fathead in a studio next door to hers.

She later said she was unaware of her song being a hit around the world, having never heard it once on the radio in Jamaica, and first heard it on the soundtrack of a film called Belly after moving to the US in 1996.

Sister Nancy (aka Nancy Russell) was one of 15 siblings born in Kingston; her brother Robert, known to her family as Dickie, found fame as Brigadier Jerry, who made a big name as a DJ, with young Nancy occasionally performing on his sound system.

Her solo career began with a hit single called Papa Dean and she found further exposure performing at Sunsplash. Other notable releases included Chalice A Fe Burn and Boom Chacka Lacka followed by her signature songs, Ain’t No Stopping Nancy and Only Woman DJ With Degree.

But it’s Bam Bam for which she will be remembered, along with two duets with Yellowman – Bang Belly and King And Queen – and another rare feminist anthem in the world of Jamaican dancehall, A No Any Man Can Test Sister Nancy.