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If you're the sort who tracks hot EDM blogs and remixes, you might surmise that the popularity of moombahton, the genre DJ Dave Nada invented three years ago by slowing Dutch house records to reggaeton speed, is waning. The style is losing ground to "trap music," a subterranean take on Southern hip-hop.
But blog attention and the number of new tracks don't necessarily reflect healthy growth. This week, Phoenix partygoers will experience its first Moombahton Massive party. The concert series, which started in the moombahton mecca — Washington, D.C.'s U Street Music Hall — has since gone global, gathering the genre's top DJs in cities all across the world. Founding fathers Nadastrom (Nada and Matt Nordstrom) and DJ Sabo will top the bill, supported by Phoenix's own AZ Gunslingaz, DJ Melo, Pickster One, Mendez, and Riot Earp, all early adopters of the style. The party falls on Pickster's birthday, and just a few weeks ago, moombahton's third birthday passed with little fanfare.
But the genre — despite its youth or, rather, by virtue of it — can teach us a thing or two. In many ways, it could be the blueprint for the development of future scenes.
"In the digital ADD day and age, you see these genres like 'trap' come around and blow up so fast, even faster than moombahton did," Pickster writes via e-mail from Greece on his European tour. "But the producers pushing the moombah genre are just getting into making deeper, soulful, not-for-the-club-or-festival music. And for a genre to exist there needs to be music like this . . . We're really just getting into it."
Sabo, who had been making mid-tempo tropical bass for years prior to Nada coining the term "moombahton," sees the tapering releases in a positive light.
"There was a big wave of people getting into the sound last year," Sabo writes on his way to a Massive party in Berlin, "and while that was a good thing, it also kind of flooded the market . . . with a lot of mediocre tunes that started to sound a lot alike. Now that the wave has passed, I think that people who really love the sound and 'get it' will keep making tunes, and it will grow even further."
DJs are meant to respond to their audience, so it makes sense for talented producers to dabble and move from one new thing to the next relatively quickly. We're no longer in a winner-take-all musical world where a few styles win out. Instead, a multitude of micro-genres are beginning to fill the space previously occupied by fewer but larger scenes. Middle-class genres and artists are becoming the norm.
"These styles don't exist in a vacuum like they used to," writes Riot Earp in an e-mail. "The Internet has made it possible for people with entirely different backgrounds to come together and make something that maybe neither has a geographic 'identity' with."
Still, Nada invented the genre at a D.C. underground party. He proposed to his fiancée and fellow moombahton DJ Jen Lasher at a massive in the U Street Music Hall. That's all history tied to a place that forges common memory and pride. So while DJs far and wide quickly adopted moombahton via the Internet, that doesn't mean that geography is no longer a factor for the scene, just less so.
"Despite its explosion on the Internet, the real home of moombahton is undeniably Washington, D.C., where we started the massive parties," Sabo says. "The fans there are diehard and really support the music. Without D.C. and U-Hall I'm not sure we'd even be talking right now."
But we are and apparently will be for a while.