D.C.’s youth reinvent the sound of their city

By Dereck Marwa

Go-go, known as a staple of the D.C. music scene since it’s emergence in the 60s and 70s, has remained wildly popular in the D.C. area to this day. However, the audience of traditional go-go has grown older, and a rift has opened between the older and younger generation of go-go fans. The younger generations now pack venues across the region to engage with a movement that provides a hot, fresh, take on the traditional go-go style.

In 2003, go-go band TCB introduced the sound after the sound system at one of their shows malfunctioned. Their percussionist and drummer began to play a slow, rattling, pounding drum beat that they had been practicing.

“The bounce beat is more rototom-driven, with the hi-hat open,” Northeast Groovers drummer Jeffrey “Jammin Jeff” Warren said. “with louder, more aggressive sounds from the drummer. There is a bit more chanting, and in the groove, the feel is a bit more aggressive.”

Since then, a multitude of new bands consisting of youths that were tired of the same old go-go sound have burst onto the scene. Bands like ABM, DTB, XIB, and Reaction Band all owe the foundation of their sound to TCB and its late leader, Reginald “Polo” Burwell. Young people all over the region have consistently come out in force to party to the genre they created.

Traditional go-go shows remain very well attended by older go-go enthusiasts, and they tend to steer well clear of bounce beat. As is the case with other youth-led deviations from the norm, the older generations have fiercely resisted the evolution of go-go. Though some call it “noise,” an all too common gripe with new styles of music, they have some more pressing concerns with bounce beat.

“There’s not enough original music coming out as [there] was 15, 20 years ago” Co-CEO of GoWin Media Nico “the GoGo-Ologist” Hobson said. “There was a lot more work being put in as far as the artists, the go-go musicians, going into the studio and putting out structured music.”

The innovation of young go-go artists has breathed new life into the genre. However, the rift between the two generations may create a barrier to the longevity of bounce beat, and in turn, go-go.

“Of course everything changes with time,” Warren said. “But if the older generation shows the younger generation how we came up with the go-go, then I think that it will stay relevant forever. But I don’t think it’s going anywhere because, as far as the DMV area goes, this is in our blood. We live go-go.”


Founded in 1975, the Washington Association of Black Journalists is an organization of Black journalists, journalism professors, public relations professionals and student journalists in the D.C., metro area. WABJ provides members with ongoing professional education opportunities and advocates for greater diversification of the profession.