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Related: bass - drum - Jamaica - music - reggae - rhythm - Studio One - version

Real Rock (1967) - C. Dodd and Sound Demension


A riddim is a rhythm pattern, basically consisting of a drum pattern and a prominent bassline. Often a melody is associated with the riddim. The Jamaican-English term originates from the word rhythm.

Riddims are the instrumental background of every reggae, lovers rock, dub, raggamuffin or dancehall composition. In other musical contexts a riddim would be called a groove or beat.

In most cases the term riddim is used to reference to the whole background track or rhythm section, but in older, roots riddims, riddim name is used to reference to that certain bassline and drum pattern. Its also very typical that different producers have their own versions of the same riddim.

Different artists perform on one and the same of the hundreds of riddims with different lyrics and different vocal styles, ranging from singing to rapping (for example Beenie Man's song "My Wish", Mr. Vegas' tune "Go Up" or TOK's "Man A Bad Man" are based on the "Juice" riddim).

Most riddims are named by the tune sung on that instrumental track for the first time (the "Satta-A-Masagana" riddim is named by the song "Satta-A-Masagana" performed by the group The Abyssinians).

In general riddims can be divided in three main sections. The oldest type of riddims is the classical riddim providing roots reggae dub and lovers rock with instrumentals (for example: "Bam Bam" produced by Sly & Robbie).

Second type is the ragga riddim backing raggamuffin and dancehall tunes (for example: "Juice" produced by Richard "Shams" Brown), just as the third and last type, the digital riddims (for example: "Sleng Teng" produced by King Jammy). --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riddim [Sept 2005]

Real Rock (1967) - Sound Demension

Sound Dimension's old classic is the most versioned riddim ever according to most of the RMR massive. And that is probably true.

This is a piece from the original S#! cut.

Selecta --http://www.jamrid.com/Realrock.htm [Sept 2005]

''Real Rock,'' the genre's most often licked riddim, was recorded in 1967 by one of Mr. Dodd's house bands, Sound Dimension, on that occasion including the drummer Phil Callender, the guitarist Eric Frater, the percussionist Denzel Laing, the bassist Boris Gardiner, the trombonist Vin Gordon and the resident keyboard genius and musical director Jackie Mittoo. It was built around a single, emphatic bass note followed by a rapid succession of lighter notes. The pattern repeated over and over hypnotically. The sound was so powerful that it gave birth to an entire style of reggae meant for slow dancing called ''rub a dub.'' --http://travel2.nytimes.com/mem/travel/article-page.html?res=9C01EEDD123FF930A15756C0A9629C8B63 [Sept 2005]

See also: reggae - music - 1967 - riddim - Clement Dodd


A rhythm, riddim in reggae vocabulary, is a rhythm pattern. It's basically a bassline and usually a special drumpattern is used with the bassline. Sometimes a short melody is associated with the riddim, but the main ingredient is the bassline. In other musical contexts it would be called a groove, and that pretty well sums up what it is about.

Most riddims have originated from a hit tune, and usually the riddim has been given the name of that tune.

Studio One

The most versioned riddims are more than 20 years old and originated at Coxone Dodd's legendary Studio One studio, Brentford Road, Kingston. Many producers has made more than one classic riddim, but none can compete with the Studio One output from the late sixties and early seventies. Versions of "Moving Away", "Pretty Looks", "Nanny Goat", "Drum Song", "Jah Shakey", "Full Up", "Real Rock", "Skylarking" and "Joe Frazier" are riddims you'll hear your favorite soundsystem play in any session. --Selecta via http://www.geocities.com/SiliconValley/Heights/2597/Whadat.htm [Sept 2005]

Sleng Teng (1985)

Way in my brain, no cocaine I don't wanna, I don't wanna go insane. --Under Mi Sleng Teng (1995) - Wayne Smith

Sleng Teng is the name given to the first fully computerised riddim in Jamaican music. As is normal in Jamaican music, the riddim was named after the first vocal track released using it, namely Wayne Smith's "Under Mi Sleng Teng".

The riddim itself is allegedly an attempt to recreate Eddie Cochran's "Something Else". It is a pattern built into the Casio MT-40 home keyboard.

The riddim was built at King Jammy's studio. Jammy recorded a number of other artists on the original backing track including Tenor Saw (with "Pumpkin Belly"), and Johnny Osborne (with "Buddy Bye Bye"). The tunes were first unleashed at a now legendary soundclash between Jammy's own sound system and Black Scorpio at Waltham Park Road on February 23, 1985.

King Tubby, who had originally taught Jammy how to produce music, was inspired by the track to create his own "Tempo" riddim.

Sleng Teng is among the most versioned of Jamaican riddims, with Reggae-Riddims listing over 180 versions.

The riddim was updated by Jammy in 2005 (slightly speeded up, with added horn riff) and this variation is known as "Sleng Teng Resurrection". Several new cuts on the original Sleng Teng were also released by Jammys in 2005 in celebration of the riddim's 20th anniversary. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleng_Teng [Sept 2006]

The debate

There is an continuously ongoing debate about the usage of these old riddims. Older producers and artists criticize the current music business for exploitation of the old riddims and for lack of originality and real creativity. It's is easy to make a version of "Real Rock" with today's computers and samplers, but it's much more difficult to create something new. Current artist claim that it is an inheritance and a tradition that they are proud of. Using the classic riddims for inspiration is a way of paying respect to those who originated them. The originators themselves would prefer to be paid cash, which mostly they weren't when the original was released.

And it's true that most Jamaican producers relies heavily on versions. Jamaican music industry is, and has always been, a business with a lot of followers and very few leaders. Despite this fact Jamaican music has to be the most inventive in the world. Styles and fashions "buss big" one month and "a dead stock" the next. With such an incredible pace, originality is the key to success. As this suggests there is a lot of new riddims built, and it's often these that are the biggest sellers. The last few years rapid development of ragga has spawned a string of great riddims. Some of them will forgotten , but a few will surely become classics, to be recycled by the next of generation producers.

As mentioned, styles and fashions changes, but old riddims never die. If you wait long enough your old favorites will sooner or later be the hottest thing "inna dance". "Cherry Oh Baby" returned big in the early nineties, with versions and riddim albums from most producers. Even Eric Donaldson made recut of his old hit tune (on Bobby Digital's version if I remember correctly). The biggest riddim in recent times is, believe it or not, recuts of The Abyssinians ancient "Satta-A-Masagana, of which most producers have cut nuff verions of in recent times.--Selecta via http://www.geocities.com/SiliconValley/Heights/2597/Whadat.htm [Sept 2005]


If you are familiar with copyright laws in the way it works in for example in the States, you might wonder how this works in Jamaica. It doesn't, and sadly there is not enough space to plunge into how the Jamaican music industry handles financial and legal matters. But it is a intriguing subject, believe me! --Selecta via http://www.geocities.com/SiliconValley/Heights/2597/Whadat.htm [Sept 2005]

External links

  • http://www.geocities.com/SiliconValley/Heights/2597/Whadat.htm
  • http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Cavern/2659/CDNow/Sugar_Minott.htm
  • reggae-riddims.com top 40 most versioned Jamaican riddims

    In Search of the Lost Riddim (1998) - Ernest Ranglin

  • In Search of the Lost Riddim (1998) - Ernest Ranglin [Amazon.com]
    From the time he toured Senegal with Jimmy Cliff in the late '70s, Jamaican guitarist Ernest Ranglin wanted to return and record with local musicians. He finally got his wish in 1997, and the fruit produced by the journey was this collaboration with Senegalese star Baaba Maal. They're joined here by Maal's band, Daande Lenol, which translates as "nomad soul"--a fitting description for an album that is a restless blend of jazz sophistication and African syncopation. Restless is a dirty word when applied to roving husbands or spooked horses, but Ranglin's insatiable desire to explore is a treasure to behold. --Keith Moerer for amazon.com

    Jamaican jazz guitarist Ernest Ranglin, at 66 years old, is more adventurous than most musicians half his age. Few could travel to Senegal and record with Baaba Maal and his band, Daande Lenol. Fewer still could make such a successful melding of styles. The secret is that Ranglin becomes a part of the band, trading licks with the kora, letting the others speak loudly, then adding his own distinctive voice to the proceedings. This is very definitely an "African" album, highlighted... --amazon.com

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