How to name a Riddim Image

by Tanaka Roberts

For many Jamaican producers, it begins with a riddim. 'Riddim' is the patois pronunciation of rhythm which typically alludes to an instrumental (version) in Jamaican music. In most cases a producer creates a riddim, whether one drop (cultural) or juggling (fast-paced/ up-tempo), first.

Thereafter several artistes are 'voiced' (that is, to record lyrics) over the riddim which combines to give the signature flair of 'Jamaican music'. It is not uncommon for up to 20 songs to be on one riddim, sometimes even more. In general, a riddim as a collection of songs has traditionally been more worthwhile than a single on a riddim. Each riddim is unique and as such is named to distinguish them. 

So how do you name a Riddim? 
 Truth is there is no science to naming a riddim. The diversity in the names of existing riddims is a testament to this. There are however several things that will impact what a producer decides to call his riddim starting with the mood or type of riddim, that is, whether it is a raving / "badman" dancehall riddim or on the more cultural side. In 2001 for example Cordel "Scatta" Burrell produced Martial Arts Riddim. The name Martial Arts suggests something of war or battle which is the general theme of the lyrical content of the songs recorded on that riddim. In contrast to this there is the Guardian Angel Riddim which shows the softer side of the music. Incidentally riddims are also named based on a particular sound it has. Arguably one of the most popular riddims in Dancehall because of its international reach, Diwali Riddim has a signature syncopated clapping sound. This clapping resembles an indian dance-music sound which is how the riddim got its name. Similarly there is the Showtime Riddim where the beat is accompanied by cheers of "hey, hey, hey" paralleling cheers of patrons at a stage show. 

There is also the Badda Badda Riddim that uses the sample of the sound "badda badda" throughout the beat which is how that riddim was given its name.

In some instances a producer will have a riddim and after recording a series of songs will name the riddim based on a title of one of these songs. Up Close Riddim was named after Buju Banton's song on that riddim called Up Close & Personal and the Joyride Riddim from Wayne Wonder and Baby Cham song entitled Joyride.

On another note, Jamaican music extends itself to the lifestyle of the people. So, when a producer names a riddim it will very often reflect current affairs or the culture of the Jamaican people. Street Swag and Corduroy Riddim were named after fashion trends, Gaza World and Gully Stream Riddim represents the two major opposing camps in the Dancehall, and RedBull & Guiness and Overproof Riddim were given their names based on drinks enjoyed within the party scene.


 Conversely riddims have had a similar effect on the people. Songs on several riddims such as Mad Instrument and Gangsta Rock have influenced the creation of dance moves that are very popular today. This goes to show the reciprocal relationship between the music and the people.

Of course how a riddim gets its name is not exclusive to the aforementioned. Some producers simply feel a certain vibe during a studio session and name their riddim based on this. Sound, mood, culture, current affairs and a host of other things generally influence the name a riddim is given. It is really up to the producer however, to decide how he treats the end product of his hard work.

Image To contort oneself into the prescribed of mediocre minds - contradicts character.
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