Sister Nancy's "Bam Bam" reminds us that rebirth is possible

Sister Nancy's "Bam Bam" reminds us that rebirth is possible

In Hear ThisA.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing. This week, we’re plowing through some of our favorite songs for spring.

I don’t know when I first heard Sister Nancy’s “Bam Bam,” but I’m always pleased when it pops back into my life. That’s what happened a couple of weekends ago when an event DJ spun it at Third Man in Nashville, reminding me that, dammit, “Bam Bam” is a hot springtime jam.

This reggae single is 30-plus years old and has been sampled by artists like Too Short and Krinjah. It’s appeared in various video games and movies, but it’s still not a well-known song by any means. That’s too bad, because it’s actually a relatively important reggae touch point, and one from someone without any sort of connection to the Marley family. Sister Nancy (born Ophlin Russell) was born in Kingston, Jamaica and, along with elder brother Robert (one of her 14 siblings) started to get into playing reggae music. She became the first female artist to play Reggae Sunsplash, a Jamaican reggae festival, as well as the first female Jamaican DJ to tour internationally, both of which are fairly substantial achievements. While she’s now a bank employee living and working in New Jersey, Russell-Myers still performs every so often, and released her second record, 2007’s Sister Nancy Meets Fireproof, a full 25 years after her first, 1982’s One Two.

More than anything, “Bam Bam” reminds me that rebirth is possible. Years after Sister Nancy released this track into the proverbial musical ether, it came back, propped up by DJ and Internet mixtape culture. This woman, like so many other musicians before her, originally made music because she loved it, and years later she was rewarded for that devotion. It’s a great message made even greater by being tied to such a stellar, uplifting song. “Bam Bam” is spring whipped up and made into musical form, and I’ll be listening to it pretty much constantly from now until mid-June.


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