Jungle music, a subgenre within the vast landscape of electronic dance music (EDM), first ignited dancefloors in London during the early 1990s. Its distinctive blend of deep basslines and rhythms, infused with influences from reggae and hip-hop, emerged from the roots of breakbeat hardcore. This percussive dance music, fueling the early '90s sound system and rave scene, gave birth to jungle music, swiftly encapsulating the sonic essence of young Britain in the mid-1990s.
A Historical Odyssey of Jungle Music
Origins: Breakbeat hardcore, popular among ravers in the early 1990s, splintered into various subgenres, including happy hardcore and darkcore. Early jungle music, emanating from record labels like Suburban Base & Moving Shadow, echoed the darkcore formula with tracks such as DJ Hype’s “Shot in the Dark” and Origin Unknown's “Valley of the Shadows.”
Jungle Techno: A parallel faction of jungle music, referred to as jungle techno, introduced more relaxed elements to breakbeat hardcore. Featuring beats and rhythms inspired by Jamaican music forms like reggae, dancehall, and dub, these tracks found favor among club-goers and pirate radio stations.
Popularity and Impact: The mid-1990s marked the zenith of the jungle scene, with its dedicated BBC radio program and hits like DJ/producer M-Beat’s “Incredible,” Renegade’s “Terrorist,” and Shy FX's "Original Nuttah." The multicultural components of jungle music, incorporating Jamaican rhythms, electronic beats, and breakbeats, fostered unity among fans of reggae, hip-hop, electro, and rave music.
Decline: Jungle music spawned subgenres like ragga jungle and jump-up, laying the groundwork for the evolution into drum and bass in the early 2000s. Despite its decline in mainstream popularity, jungle music persisted through subgenres like drumfunk and releases from classic artists such as Michael West, known as Congo Natty and Rebel MC.
Three Defining Characteristics of Jungle Music
Beats: Jungle music pulses at a brisk 160 beats per minute (BPM), faster than early hardcore breakbeat productions. This tempo surpasses the reggae and dub tracks it samples and distinguishes it from more recent EDM styles like dubstep.
Production: Characterized by heavy basslines underpinning energetic breakbeats and synth lines, jungle music's production connects it to breakbeat hardcore and house music. Early jungle exhibits ominous synths, while later versions embrace a more melodic approach.
Samples: Jungle producers draw inspiration from hip-hop, incorporating vocal and instrumental samples. The iconic "Amen break," sampled from the Winstons' "Amen, Brother," is a frequently used soul/funk instrumental sample. Vocal samples from reggae, dancehall, and classic R&B and funk hits add flavor to jungle tracks.
Four Noteworthy Jungle Artists
Andy C: A pioneering figure in drum and bass, Andy C, alongside RAM Records co-founder Ant Miles, released the seminal darkcore track "Valley of the Shadows." His influence extended to the chart-topping "Body Rock" in 2002.
Aphrodite: Producer and performer Gavin King, known as Aphrodite, played a crucial role in jump-up's development, characterized by warped basslines. His high-energy releases for the Urban Takeover label paved the way for jump-up in the late '90s.
Shy FX: Crafting enduring classics like "Original Nuttah," Shy FX's influence extends from jungle's earliest days to his later hits such as "Shake Your Body" and collaborations with major artists.
Roni Size: Standing apart with a Mercury Prize-winning album, "New Forms," Roni Size, along with his group Reprazent, made a significant impact in the late '90s jungle and drum and bass scene. Hits like "Brown Paper Bag" and collaborations with international stars solidified his place in the genre's history.