Riddim is the Jamaican patois pronunciation of the English word 'rhythm,' but in Jamaican music refers to the instrumental accompaniment of a song. A rocksteady or reggae song consists of the riddim (the bass and drums) plus the 'voicing' (vocal part) sung by the performer. Riddims are such an important part of Jamaican music that hardcore fans can instantly identify the hundreds of riddims which are the DNA of reggae music. While many songs may share the same riddim, each is truly unique based on the singer, the topic and additional instrumentation.
A given riddim, if popular, may be recorded and performed in hundreds of songs and live performances. Some classic riddims, such as 'Cherry Oh Baby' and 'Real Rock' are essentially the accompaniment tracks to the original 1960s reggae songs (Cherry Oh Baby by Eric Donaldson and 'Rockfort Rock by Sound Dimension) with those names, that were popularized by successive performers and producers who knew they could have a hit on their hands if the record buying public was already familiar with the riddim. As they say, 'Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery...'
According to 'Wake the Town and Tell the People: Dancehall Culture in Jamaica':
"Riddims are the primary musical building blocks of Jamaican popular songs.... At any given time, ten to fifteen riddims are widely used in dancehall recordings, but only two or three of these are the now ting (i.e., the latest riddims that everyone must record over if they want to get them played in the dance or on radio). In dancehall performing, those whose timing is right on top of the rhythm are said to be "riding di riddim".One of the most enduring riddims in Jamaican music is the 'Pressure & Slide' riddim which was originally written and recorded in 1966 by Prince Buster on his rocksteady hit 'Shaking Up Orange Street' and was immediately covered at Studio One by The Tennors who re-titled in 'Pressure & Slide' giving the song structure its well known name. The riddim was famously covered by Sugar Minott on his critique of the Jamaican police on 'Oh Mr. DC" and later by Yelllowman.
Prince Buster - Shaking Up Orange Street (1966)
The Tennors - Pressure & Slide (1967)
Sugar Minott - Oh Mr DC (1978)
Yellowman - Two To Six Supermix (1982)
My first introduction to the 'Pressure & Slide Riddim' came courtesy of the dancehall meets lover's rock classic 'One Dance Won't Do' by Audrey Hall that was all over the radio in the U.K in the mid-80's when I was living there. The song was a hit and the riddim roared back to life again. At last count there have been recordings of more than a hundred songs using the Pressure And Slide riddim.
Audrey Hall - One Dance Won't Do (1986)
For those who are interested in exploring the 'Pressure & Slide' riddim further, I recommend checking out the compilation alum 'What One Riddim Can Do' on iTunes.