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POP Montréal Music

Sister Nancy

Paterson, NJ

In 1982, Sister Nancy’s now-legendary dancehall song “Bam Bam” took Toots and the Maytals’ original lyric and transformed it into a rallying cry for female empowerment, a statement of Nancy’s intention to break through a ceiling more solid and opaque than glass to make it in the Jamaican music business. Forty years on, she has surely fulfilled her most famous song’s own manifesto. And how! “Bam Bam” has now been sampled by the likes of Kanye West, Lauryn Hill, and Jay-Z and appeared in countless films & television commercials. Indeed, following its appearance in the hit TV show Ozark, “Bam Bam” recently attained a North American number-one. Remarkably, however, following its recording as an afterthought album track, “Bam Bam” initially escaped widespread attention in Jamaica, where it was rarely played on the radio or in the dancehall. But the most powerful art cannot be held back, and this incredibly infectious track succeeded in making the journey from rank obscurity to, decades later, taking its place in the mainstream of global popular culture. The incredible story of “Bam Bam,” and how the song unexpectedly re-powered Sister Nancy’s musical career, is the story of a strong female lead battling a male-dominated system, often hostile to artists’ rights, to earn recognition and reward for the creation of one of reggae music’s defining statements. In the process, “Bam Bam” has become not only Sister Nancy’s signature tune but an enduring and instantly recognizable song that resonates across Jamaican music culture and far beyond. In 2017, Pitchfork named “Bam Bam” “The Best Dancehall Song of All Time”.