Bam Bam: The Sister nancy Story Is the Life of a Beautiful Fearless Icon [Tribeca]

Bam Bam: The Sister Nancy Story still of Sister Nancy at Lula Lounge in Toronto, Canada.

Bam Bam: The Sister Nancy Story tells the story of an artist who remains larger than life, and her music is a natural offshoot of the size of her spirit.

Bam Bam: The Sister Nancy Story, playing at Tribeca Festival, tells the true life story of the evolution of the “Queen of Reggae Dancehall” music. Sister Nancy’s come-up is even more inspiring as she was one of the first women in the scene amidst a sea of men. She became an icon. Plus, her song is the most sampled reggae dancehall song of all time, especially within hip hop. Told in the present day with Sister Nancy traveling to and from Jamaica for performances, with flashbacks and discussions of her journey, Bam Bam: The Sister Nancy Story is entertaining and one of those crucial stories more documentaries need to focus on. 

Written and directed by Alison Duke (Black Community Mixtapes21 Black Futures), Sister Nancy’s story weaves one of defiance and resolution to be herself. She does what she loves without compromising herself. The documentary blends authentic archival clips with vivid dramatizations that immerse viewers in the vibe of Kingston, Jamaica. Nancy exudes a self-assured aura that translates to her music. Her voice, despite its pitch, held weight. 

Bam Bam: The Sister Nancy Story Mixes Past and Present Perfectly

Alison Duke’s narrative unfolds in a fluid manner, transitioning between past and present. This natural progression of Sister Nancy’s life, punctuated by interviews with various artists, producers, and DJs, including Janelle Monáe, Sister Carol, and Pete Rock, adds to the film. The documentary also features Nancy revisiting her childhood haunts with her family. It’s a poignant reminder of the love that radiates from her and extends to the community. 

Bam Bam: The Sister Nancy Story Shows A Global Sensation

There are songs and artists that never crossover to become a global voice. However, Sister Nancy’s cover of “Bam Bam” bridged nations with her music, as evidenced by footage. It shows her still performing everywhere, from the gentrified streets of Brooklyn to Germany, Australia, Hong Kong, and more. It’s a track that announces to the world, “I’m here, and I’m not going nowhere.” The fact that it’s not only a beloved song but sampled so heavily showcases the longevity of Sister Nancy’s talent that Bam Bam: The Sister Nancy Story captures. As they say, her sincerity shines through, capturing the hearts of millions worldwide. 

Bam Bam: The Sister Nancy Story still of Sister Nancy performing with legendary Soul Syndicate in Jamaica.
Bam Bam: The Sister Nancy Story still. Courtesy of Tribeca.

But it’s also frustrating for viewers who want more for Sister Nancy. That an artist with one of the most sampled songs ever still had to juggle a full-time job as an accountant at a bank while traveling on the weekend is a travesty. Still, it also creates hilarious and familiar stories of making up stories to escape work early. Sister Nancy’s daughter Shandy describes her mother as “sweet and pepper,” which comes through in her voice and lyrics. 

Everyone Deserves Their Due

The most enraging aspect is the exploitation. Sister Nancy never earned royalties for all the times various artists and films sampled or used her song. The documentary interviews different artists, including the first to sample her song. Even more egregious is how Nancy reached out to producer Winston Riley when she heard the track used in the film Belly. After he agreed to meet her someplace to pay her, she waited twelve hours, and he never showed. But Nancy did not just accept it and fought for the royalties she deserved. Not only her but also the musicians deserve compensation for their contributions to the song, which the documentary shows. 

A Powerful, Magnetic Delight All Must See

Bam Bam: The Sister Nancy Story tells the story of an artist who remains larger than life, and her music is a natural offshoot of the size of her spirit. Her lyrics stating “it’s from creation” show she cannot be swayed. Documentaries like this are necessary. Inspirational true tales are rare outside of white docs. But people deserve to see themselves reflected in fiction and nonfiction. Not all documentaries need to celebrate iconic people when they are gone. The most impactful honor those legends while they are here, giving them their due; Bam Bam: The Sister Nancy Story achieves this beautifully, capturing a rhythmic confidence in Sister Nancy that one hopes transfers through the screen into them. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

DarkSkyLady Reviews