This case study will be looking into the evolution of Jungle music, from its roots in Reggae and UK Rave music to Drum & Bass and other sub-genres today. It will look at the historical views of its origins, and how it has developed from the underground to the mainstream scene.
it will identify key players in this genre of music, and explain how they have influenced significant changes.
Through this case study, I will show how Jungle music has evolved in the last thirty years, illustrating how the fusion of very different genres such us Reggea, Ska, Breakbeat or Acid house have created this genre that has continued evolving into other sub-genres, and during its history has become a reference that has brought people from different social classes and races together meaning the union of black and white people in England.
I will also explain how the genre has found its ways of promotion, despite the media being against it and also despite commercial radios refusing to play it. And how years after, artists like Goldie have brought the Genre to the top of the charts.
Figure 1: DJ Fabio at an early jungle rave, London, 1990s
Before The Jungle
After World War 2, between 1948 and 1971 Great Britain encouraged mass emigration from countries of the British Empire to work and help in the reconstruction of the nation. They were named as The Windrush Generation, this included Jamaica, Barbados or Trinidad and Tobago.
The British government invited Caribbean migrants, some of them were ex-servicemen. They were picked up from Kingston (Jamaica), then brought to the port of Tilbury, giving them residency in Clapham and Brixton in London (Boiler Room, 2018).
Figure 2: 22 June 1948 the Empire Windrush landed at Tilbury Docks, Essex
Little did we know in the future of how much of an influence their culture impacted Britain. The Windrush generation not only brought workers: they brought style, music and new sounds.
Stemming from the late 60’s, Pigmeat Markham is considered to be the first introduced early elements of rapping with ”Here Comes the Judge”. Also, at the time, Funk, R;B and soul were popular in the US, creating legends as Aretha Franklin, Ben E. King, James Brown and many more. Meanwhile, in the UK, the scenes were driven by Subcultures like Punks, Mods and Skinheads.
From Jamaica, the migrants started to bring to the UK their handmade Sound systems to the communities. This, therefore, resulted in the future ”British Sound System” like Sir Coxone Outernational, Channel One, Jah Shaka or Aba-Shanti. This brought the elements of toasting lyrical singing over dub instrumentals, which in the future evolved into MC’s.
Council estates were filled with working-class English and Caribbean families, dynamics that were reflected in working-class jobs. By the 70s, young working-class English and Jamaicans came together in music and with that came the Two-Tone scene, a genre that mix Ska and Punk Rock.
Back in the US during the late 70s, DJs from New York such as Kool Herc from the Bronx realised that when playing Soul and Funk to a crowd, the energy would pick up in the dance at the time of the drum break solo.
DJs were always looking for sample breaks looking at the funk and Soul tracks like:
James Brown – The Funky Drummer
Incredible Bongo Band – Apache
Lyn Collins – Think About It
But in 1969, ‘Amen Brother’ by The Winstons was the record that impacted the music scene the most with the ‘Amen Break’. This drum break would be sampled and used by many subcultures and genres.
The UK Rave scene:
In the 90s British DJs and producers started taking the breaks influenced by the US hip-hop mixing the sounds with Acid House creating UK Breakbeats.
DJs brought this to the rave scene, changing the sounds and paving the way for new creativity and artists. Accordingly, this is why the understanding and importance of Sound System culture had been an influence in the UK music scene. the UK raves were getting shut down by police and people rebelling against the system and bringing love and unity similar to the scene back in Jamaica.
The Beginning of Jungle:
British rappers started to leave their mark on the dance scene, while the UK Breakbeat sound stayed fresh and new thanks to US Hips Hop.
Initial pioneers of Jungle – coming from the Breakbeat scene – are artists like Rebel MC and Ragga Twins that started incorporating their Jamaican influences. By 1992, more producers started experimenting with Jungle sounds through the use of distinctive bass lines borrowed from dub and reggae.
The scene grew big with people like Kenny Ken, Nicky Black Market, Fabio & Grooverider or DJ Hype. MCs started to demonstrate their talent on the scene by bringing the Jamaican influences of toasting, rhyming on the baseline and motivating the crowds, creating Jungle legends such as Tenor Fly, Hyper D or Skibadee. Another factor that characterised these raves was the display of professional dancers on the stage reflecting the hype and atmosphere of the scene.
Jungle raves were packed full of people in iconic venues such as Club Labyrinth (London) and The Sanctuary Music Arena (Milton Keynes), which saw the impact of the scene, later creating an iconic event known as Jungle Fever (Bennett, 2010), named by DJ Eastman from Kool FM, because of the film ”Jungle Fever” by Spike Lee which focuses on the issues of mixed relationships between black and white people.
The scene started growing causing mass controversy, including the media, due to some of the violent lyrics used, as they believed it glamorises violence.
Commercial radio stations and TV would not even dare touch the underground sounds, which forced new pirate radio stations to pop up in urban areas. In the UK, stations such as Sunrise, Center force, Kool FM and Fantasy FM were playing the latest tracks in underground music.
Pirate Radio Stations always competed for being the champion radio and to get the best Transmission signal. This would be from Hightower’s or Council State rooftops (Clifton, 2018).
”Radio Stations, very very very very important. They played the tune on dubplate, the DJ’s played it out in the clubs and then we’d get it on promo at the shop.”
Without Pirate Radio Stations local businesses such as the record stores wouldn’t prosper as they did at the time. UK underground music was in high demand in correlation to the commercial tracks, in record stores like Black Market Records (London), which enabled the opportunity for their customers and listeners of a local Pirate Radio Station to meet face-to-face with their local Pirate DJ’s.
For Pirate radios, MC culture was vital. As was explored earlier in the text, the jungle scene incorporates the Jamaican influence of ”Toasting’, which is when a DJ raps over the bassline. Mcs were rhyming on the rhythms and amping up the crowds. That was a vital part of communication to the pirate listeners.
With no visuals or video uploads, MCs got their respect and recognition due to a lyrical flow, with recognisable ad-libs and voices. Rave promoters paid the pirate stations or MCs to give on-air promotions and other business relations.
Pirate radio was a crucial element in the UK ground music scene. And without it, the cultural British urban music wouldn’t be where it is today.
Jungle reaches the top of its popularity between 1994 and 1995. Some of the key players that brought Jungle to the top of the UK Charts were M-Beat and General levy with ‘Incredible’ or Shy FX and UK Apache with ‘Original Nuttah’ (BBC 2, 1994).
‘Incredible’ reached the top ten in UK Charts, giving the opportunity to M-Beat and General Levy to perform in TV Shows like the ”Iconic top of the Pops”, the most popular music shows on BBC.
‘Original Nutta’ managed to reach the top 40 in the UK Charts, demonstrating the potential of Jungle scene in the UK mainstream.
The Jungle sound isn’t as predominant as it was in the early 90s. However, its influence can still be heard. The scene influenced important jungle artists of today such as Benny page, Ed Solo, Serial Killaz, Ed Rush or Congo Natty, creating fusions of Reggae, Drum & Bass and Jungle.
Nowadays, UK still holds events like Jungle Mania and is still going strong, and artists in the scene are still performing to this day at raves and festivals.
Jungle to Drum & Bass:
Producers and people wanted to separate themselves from Jungle. Producers started to remove the Reggae and Jamaican influences but kept the base and Amen break elements given that dark tunnel atmosphere which similarly represented the dark times of the UK scene.
DJs, Produces an MCs from The Jungle scene were moving into Drum & Bass such as DJ Hype, LTJ Bukem or Grooverider.
Goldie was such an essential part in the Jungle and Drum & Bass movement. He put out an album called ‘Timeless’, reaching the number seven in the charts with ‘Inner City Life’. Goldie brought back to the attention of the media and new audiences to the underground music.
‘Inner City Life’ was playing everywhere; in shops, TV, adverts, and commercial radio. Goldie became an icon, his personality and artistic talent made him into a star. His success allowed him to cross paths with big names such as Oasis, Bjork, David Bowie. Also, opening opportunities for him to participate in movies, even in 2016 he has been awarded as MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) by the Prince of Wales for his contribution to the British music industry (English and Turnbull, 2018).
Figure 3: Goldie awarded an MBE by Prince Charles during an Investiture ceremony, at Buckingham Palace.
Following Goldie other Drum & Bass artist started to be winning Awards such as Bristol Legend Roni Size, which won Mercury Prize for his album ‘New Forms’. Furthermore, the genre has evolved till today creating more subgenres like Jump Up, Liquid or Neurofunk. Labels from the time such as RAM records from Andy C, Metalheads and Hospitality records, run until today becoming the reference of Drum & Bass music. The genre has reached the mainstream again with artist like Pendulum or Rudimental or Rita Ora and Dj Fresh. Also, nowadays you can listen to Jungle and Drum & Bass samples in many of the songs on the top of the UK charts, like Rita Ora and Dj Fresh.
Drum & Bass is an important genre both musically and culturally, it has been played at festivals and raves all around the globe. Furthermore, the genre opens up the exposure and diversity of producers all over the world. Artist like Makoto from Japan, S.P.Y from Brazil and Netsky from Belgium have become international big names in the scene, showing that the genre has become a commercial front, more prominent than ever before.
Today, artists are playing at the main stages in international festivals like Tomorrowland or Glastonbury. Without the efforts of DJs, MCs and Pirate Radio from the 80s and 90s, We would not have the drum and bass scene that we have today.