Sister Nancy‘s “What A Bam Bam” is without a doubt, one of the most iconic reggae tunes of its time. As the first female dancehall DJ, the Kingston native’s most popular song also goes down in history as the most sampled reggae song of all time. This is an incredible feat considering that the dancehall environment is still heavily dominated by men. She is credited with paving the way for female DJ’s in the culture. Lady Saw, and Patra and most notably for me, Tanya Stephen‘s career, which is a direct indicator of Sister Nancy’s influence.
In this video, the “Bam Bam” singer talks about the beginnings of the song and when she realized how major the song was.
About Sister Nancy
Nancy Russell, Kingston, Jamaica, West Indies. Sister Nancy was one of 15 siblings; her brother Robert, known to her family as Dickie, found fame as Brigadier Jerry. The latter began chanting on Prince Norman’s sound system before settling with Jahlove Music. While the Brigadier’s reputation as the number one cultural DJ flourished, by her mid-teens, Nancy was occasionally performing on the sound system. Winston Riley was the first producer to take Nancy into the recording studio in 1980 for her debut, ‘Papa Dean’. The tune was a success and Nancy’s career began in earnest. She performed at Reggae Sunsplash, which was transmitted globally.
A notable appearance on A Dee Jay Explosion saw Nancy performing ‘Chalice A Fe Burn’ and ‘Boom Shacka Lacka’. With Winston Riley in 1982 her debut One Two was released, featuring the title track, ‘Aint No Stopping Nancy’, ‘Bam Bam’ and ‘Only Woman DJ With Degree’. She also recorded a classic rendition of ‘King And Queen’ with Yellowman. With producer Henry ‘Junjo’ Lawes, she recorded ‘A No Any Man Can Test Sister Nancy’, ‘Bang Belly’ and another Yellowman combination, ‘Jah Mek Us Fe A Purpose’.
She continued appearing live in the dancehall where she often performed alongside her brother on the Jahlove Music Sound System. The sound toured internationally to rave reviews, including a celebrated session at Brixton Town Hall, London, where both Jerry and Nancy made their debut performances in the UK.