Fireside Chat

Sister Nancy

Reggae / DubDancehallFeature
60 minsFirst aired 21 Mar 2017
Next Fireside Chat Today at 10:00pm EDT
Courtesy of Sister Nancy

The reggae legend and original female dancehall deejay and singer tells her captivating story. Bam Bam!

In the world of Jamaican music, where female icons are few but mighty, Sister Nancy’s original voice has resonated for decades. Born in Kingston, Jamaica into a huge family, she began her time as a dancehall deejay and singer in the late ’70s and early ’80s, alongside her brother Brigadier Jerry and the Chalice, Blackstar, Stereophonic and Jahlovemuzik sound systems. Whilst collaborating with artists such as Jonny Osbourne, Yellowman, Capleton and Angie Angel on over two dozen EPs and singles throughout the ’80s and early ’90s, it was the release of her 1982 debut solo album One, Two on reggae label Greensleeves that made her a star. Sister Nancy’s high-pitched patois vocals often meander among the crackling bass, whopping horns and playful use of space, a combination that saw her song “Bam Bam” become a reggae classic – largely unbeknownst to Sister Nancy herself, though, who only learned of its cultural reach after moving to New Jersey in 1996, where she lives with her family and works as a bank accountant to this day. Although she never reached the commercial heights of some of her dancehall peers, the influence of Sister Nancy remains – hip-hop stars such as Kanye West, Lauryn Hill, Main Source, Too Short, Chris Brown, and Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth have sampling “Bam Bam,” among others, and she remains a towering figure for female dancehall and reggae artists worldwide.


Sister Nancy’s brother, Brigadier Jerry, became one of Jamaica’s most sought-after performers and DJs in the 1980s, spreading the message of the Twelve Tribes of Israel organization’s Rastafarian branch on the Jah Love Muzik sound system.


From 1979 to 1981, Sister Nancy worked on Jamaica’s Stereo Phonic Sound System as a DJ. When she began, she was only 15!


Jamaican DJ Yellowman reigned as “king of dancehall” in Jamaica throughout the 1980s. His hit song “Nobody Move” was sampled in a 1988 Eazy E joint by the same name.


Toots & The Maytals’ 1966 single “Bam Bam” inspired the hook and title of Sister Nancy’s 1982 hit.


Interview by Mark “Frosty” McNeill
Written, produced and engineered by Frank Westerkamp

More Fireside Chat Tune In Now