While feeling the rhythm and feeling the rhyme may have been a unique thing to bobsledding, in Jamaica the riddim is pretty common everywhere. “Riddim” is the Jamaican Patoi pronunciation of the English word “rhythm,” but in dancehall/reggae parlance it refers to the instrumental accompaniment to a song. Thus, a dancehall song consists of the riddim plus the “voicing” (vocal part) sung by the deejay. This creates a very unique song structure. A given riddim, if popular, may be used in dozens – or even hundreds – of songs, not only in recordings, but also in live performances. The most prolific Jamaican rhythm section would be the production team of Sly and Robbie. Sly Dunbar and bassist Robbie Shakespeare are estimated to have played on or produced 200,000 recordings.
Beginning in the 1980’s, riddims started to be originally composed by producers/beatmakers, who give the riddims original names and, typically, contract artists to “voice” over them. Riddims are the primary musical building blocks of Jamaican popular songs and are the instrumental backgrounds of reggae, lovers rock, dub, ragga, dancehall, soca, bouyon, grime compositions, and in some rare cases, reggaeton.
However, riddim is not restricted to Jamaican music culture. Some urban contemporary songs have become riddims, as well. The instrumental of Ne-Yo’s “Miss Independent” has become a popular riddim for many dancehall artists, as well as George Michael’s song, “Faith”.
This idea of riddim can be applied to all music really. If you need help trying to find the pattern between songs, start with Bob Marley and the Wailers, then Sublime, then Third Eye Blind, and you can find the basic instrumental within their songs that are overlapped with a few more instrumentals and voicing.
Not saying that songs are not unique, each one is, but it is interesting to hear how music has very direct roots and are related to each other with a rhythmic DNA.
In an entertaining fashion, here is a video of many popular songs that share common chords and “riddim”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pidokakU4I