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The master of moombahton comes to DBGB

A writer for the Washington Post in the 1970s, Richard Coe, coined the phrase “tyranny of genre,” the idea that by working within a genre, the artist stifles his own creativity. It would stand to reason, then, that if an artist attempts successfully to defy a genre, the creative possibilities should be endless. That is just what DJ and producer David Heartbreak has done. As one of the pioneers of a new sound called moombaton—a combination of house, dubstep, and reggaeton—Heartbreak has traveled the globe, slowly mutating the way we dance. On Friday (August 12), Heartbreak will spin his homegrown moombahton grooves at DBGB with local DJs Esbie, Arehouse, and DJ DStar at the Queen City Cartel’s monthly Friction Dance Party. I talked to the genre-expanding DJ about the soul of moombahton and its impact.

AV: Tell me how you developed your moombahton sound. What influences it?

Heartbreak: There are so many different ways to say it, everyone says it wrong. Latin people say “moombuh-tone” because it comes from reaggeton, I say “moombah-ton” because it flows better for me personally.

AV: So it seems like it draws from a lot of different places.

Heartbreak: Yeah, the origins come from reggaeton, but even further back it comes from reggae. It was started by David Nada in Baltimore, he founded the genre. He took the Afrojack track “Moombah” and slowed it down to 108 beats per minute because he was DJing at a reggaeton party. For some reason it sounded better to him so he started making tunes at that tempo. Another guy is my production partner Munchi from the Netherlands. We pretty much just took it in a totally different direction. My background is in hip-hop, dance hall, dubstep, electro house, and I could keep going to be honest. I added the hip-hop and electro influences to it, and then Munchie, he’s like a hybrid, he mixes everything so he added some cumbia and dubstep into it. Then there is Dillon Francis, he’s totally electro. So there are pretty much four main people who have directed the genre to where it is now.

AV: What do you think moombahton means to electronic music right now?

Heartbreak: The genre is still growing so I’m interested to see what it’s actually going to turn into. 108bpm to 112bpm is moombahton and that’s good because in America 128bpm and 130bpm tend to burn people out. That is kind of where hip-hop ends, where reggae ends. You have a lot of pop records that come into that tempo, so there isn’t really anything that is defined at that speed. If you go a little higher you get fidget and all of that UK stuff.

AV: What kind of reactions have you noticed from crowds? Do you notice people dancing differently?

Heartbreak: For me it’s different because I normally do festivals and stuff like that, though I love doing the intimate stuff as well. We’ve been doing this for two years but people are kind of catching on now. The music appeals differently to latin and urban communities than to non-latin, non-urban communities. Like the first time I DJed in Norway, when I first dropped a tune, they kind of didn’t know what to do so I had that awkward 30-second pause and I was like “Oh shit,” but then the bass line came in and after that it just went off. The thing about the moombah right now is that there is a lot of trash out there and there are a lot of people that don’t like the genre, and I can’t blame them because of all the trash. It’s just like the start of anything though. When dubstep started there was a lot of trash. The trash is more accessible than the good stuff, but the good stuff is undeniable, and that’s where the fans come from.

AV: Tell me about your Munbreakton mixes. Why did you decide to give them away for free?

Heartbreak: The reason we decided to give them away for free was because no one had any idea what the hell we were doing. You can’t put a value on something that nobody knows about. Everything has to be marketed because everything is a product. In this day in age people are going to steal it anyways so why not just give it out for free. When you give out quality for free it means a lot to people. The sixth one is coming out soon, whenever I have time. I have to learn to work on the road.

AV: You grew up in Brooklyn but now you’re in Charlotte, North Carolina. How do you think these places influence your sound?

Heartbreak: I came to Charlotte to go to college and when I graduated I just stayed down here. I live in Charlotte but I’m not here, you know? Charlotte doesn’t really influence my sound because I don’t really even come outside here. What really influences my sound is having a diverse set of friends and listening to so many different kinds of music. I just did LA Beat Down last week, which is like the biggest dubstep event in California. I’m a big black hip-hop dude but I can rock with the best of them because I just love and appreciate all types of music.

AV: So when you play a big dubstep show like that do you tweak your sound at all to fit in?

Heartbreak: When I do a dubstep show like that I don’t spin dubstep at all, I spin moombahcore, which is dubstep influenced moombahton. It’s got the same elements but it’s just a little faster and a little more danceable. That’s the stuff that the girls really go crazy to. You’ve still got the dub but it’s danceable. It’s really aggressive, sexy music.

AV: What do you consider yourself first and foremost? Producer, DJ, remixer?

Heartbreak: I’m a producer/DJ. When I make a track I’m trying to please everyone in the room. I’ll have a small hip-hop snippet, a Jamaican snippet, some electrovibes, cumbia, latin. I even make a lot of Indian music. A lot of people think I’m either Spanish or Indian, until they meet me, and then they’re like “I didn’t know you were black.” It’s kinda funny. Good music crosses all colors, ethnicities and genres.

Check out Heartbreak’s website,, for free downloads of his first five EPs.

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