Words by DJ K
When I meet new people, the inevitable question always is: “what do you do?”. Most can grasp the concept of what a DJ is, and with a little additional explanation it is understandable, that as a producer I can string my own tracks together into a DJ set. But then comes the “oh I get it, so what kind of music?”. What are the chances you have any idea what Jungle is? Slim to none – and although it can be entertaining at times to come up with a description, it gets repetitive. So here it is once and for all – as concise and broad as I can make it. There are a lot of different “takes” or perspectives on what happened – and everyone’s journey was different, this was mine. I intentionally omitted many different story lines (the development of “intelligent” jungle, major-label hits like Goldie and Roni Size, the branch-off of sub genres jump-up, liquid and neuro for examples) to cover (maybe) in a separate occasion.
The quick & dirty
Drum & Bass
Somewhere in between (??)
What most people will associate with “DJ” or “Electronic Music”
So let’s get started: pre “Jungle” developed in the underground rave scene alongside other styles from 1989-1993. While most electronic music had a 4-4 kick (think MARRS 1987 hit “pump up the volume”), jungle instead focused on breakbeats (eventually losing the kick drum altogether) and deeper sub-basses for rhythm. The speed ranged from house music (mid-120 bpm) to 140 and beyond, increasing as time went on.
Rave in 1989
The Ragga Twins – Spliffhead 1990
Blame – Music Takes You 1991
DJ Phantasy & Gemini – Never Try The Hippodrome 1992
Phuture Assassins – Roots n Future 1993
As sounds started splitting off into their own sub-genres, Jungle was one of them. Examples of others sub-genres are: techno, hardcore gabber, acid, house, breaks and the list goes on. Each had its own sound and places in the world where it had the biggest following and was able to develop the most. Who, or more accurately “where” claims to be the originators of Jungle? It is safe to say that it emerged from London, Bristol and other cities not far from the capital of Great Britain.
History of Jungle documentary
History of British Style (focus on Jungle)
This was such a quickly-changing time for electronic music, where obvious developments in the new sub-genres could be heard in very short timeframes of only one year, and usually within months. Eventually Jungle broke off as its own genre and the classic most well-known tracks were made in 1994-1995, ranging from 160-170 bpm. The chopped-up breakbeats and staccato sample stabs style saturated in its own scene – it peaked and then drastically changed. This period in time is considered the “Golden Age” of Jungle music, and some of the tunes back then even made it into the pop charts.
Shy FX & UK Apache – Original Nuttah 1994
M-Beat feat. General Levy – Incredible 1994
Congo Natty – Junglist 1995
Lemon D – This is L.A. (a bit more underground release) 1995
Drum & Bass
A new style of jungle called “drum & bass” emerged in 1996 and started what quickly became the final genre that still continues today. It stripped out the broken beats and started using proper drum kits in an ordered, danceable pattern. Although sub bass was still the norm, new synthesizers started appearing and sampling was almost completely removed. Most saw this as s good thing, a logical progression and keeping with the times.
Gang Related & Mask – Dictation 1996
DJ Krust – Warhead 1997
BC – The Nine 1998
Ed Rush & Optical – Sick Note 1999
EZ Rollerz – RS 2000 2000
Drum & Bass today
As the years went on, Drum & Bass got cleaner, harder and more refined. It branched out to include vocals, trance-styled builds, jazz, hip hop, electro, latin, and many, many additional styles. These days (in 2015), dnb parties can be found all over the world and often as headlining stages. Not quite as popular as techno, house and trance, but certainly a big enough following that people know what it is. Some of you may have heard about drum & bass – well, now you know where it comes from. You may have even been to an event.
Sigma live set 2014
Hospitality 2015 MIX
Andy C live in 2006
If you are one of these people, great – you are already a step ahead of most people I try to explain this drawn-out story to. And, chances are, there is a good probability you have heard the word Jungle. Even greater! Maybe you even thought you knew what it was, or maybe now that you try and think about it you are more confused than ever.
What happened to Jungle?
Which brings me to why I am writing this – is Jungle still relevant today, and should you care? Why do I care?
I was born in 1975, which dropped me in a perfect age to watch this whole evolution take place. I started going to raves in 94/95, right around the time Jungle was at its peak and grew in its own genre – often with its own separate rooms or complete parties. It was my favorite kind of music – absolutely futuristic and aggressive – and the events were interactive because the DJ’s were rewinding the best records, there was an MC on the mic shouting madness, and the crowd was just bouncing off the walls to their favorite tracks. I not only listened to it, I lived it. It felt more advanced than anything I had ever heard, and it was so exclusive and underground. It was rare to find this music anywhere but on college radio or in DJ record shops on handmade mixtapes. There was a particular culture that came from Jungle that can’t be summed-up that has elements of Reggae positivity in the flow, militant soldier-esque machine gun shots at drops (we mostly wore camouflage gear), ultra-fast dancing, a punk rock ethic and a slight gangsta vibe.
Jungle party in 1994
Drum & Bass is great, don’t get me wrong. But it lost a do-it-yourself “soul”, for lack of a better term. Jungle was built on pasting together samples and experimenting with how far you could switch up drum patterns and scare people with the deepest bass lines. There wasn’t really any rules, and melodies from all kinds of genres were added into the frantic beats – in particular reggae, dancehall and dub – which is why the term Jungle is often used interchangeably with Ragga-Jungle.
Around 2000, North Americans (like me) were missing that “classic” sound of jungle. So we started releasing records in that style, the only addition was that it was a bit faster (about 180 bpm) and although it was more sample-based, it now also incorporated new elements of dnb. Over the next 4 or 5 years it seemed like we were releasing new records every week. But let me put it into perspective: Jungle was nowhere near the popularity it was in the first wave back in the first half of the 90’s. Maybe scaled down by about 1/10000. Or at least that is a pretty accurate number by record sales. Nonetheless, this small following we had was enough to have a powerful underground niche, and those who were into it genuinely loved it with their heart and soul – it was a movement, not just a kind of music to listen to. We had a unique scene we could identify ourselves to, and I was proud!
Soundmurderer – Limb by Limb Remix 2001
DJ K – Championz 2001
Krinjah – Bam Bam Remix 2001
Chopstick Dubplate 1 2002
General Malice – This is the Year 2003
We had our own online forums to share new productions, new friends were made and we travelled great distances to meet and tour together. For a while, our community of the new breed of junglists seem to get bigger and bigger.. but then what happened next? Internal beefs and a super high ratio of producers-to-partygoers ended up meaning that what had shortly became a vibrant and regular slew of club events, eventually became a popularity contest and separate teams of cross-armed trainspotters watching the DJ. Ok ok, I exaggerate and it is only one theory. There are many factors that contributed to the downfall, and individual personalities from producers and label-owners most certainly were the engine that fueled it on one end, but the unstoppable factors of improving production technology and the exhaustion of hearing the same samples over and over means a lot of people moved onto new emerging sub genres with more appeal – like dubstep. But even more importantly, digital music was starting to make its way into the DJ world, which meant that selling records was no longer viable to make money or distribute your releases, and it took some time before we really figured out what to do next.
Guerrilla Warfare party in Los Angeles 2003
General Malice live in 2004
Konkrete Jungle party NYC in 2004
Anyway, while we were a few years into it (let’s say around 2006), the humble Europeans were starting jungle parties, and already making their own brand of jungle and releasing it on vinyl, but also just sharing it digitally. Before you knew it, jungle was a worldwide thing, and what was a small niche was now a small niche in many places. We all got to know each other and it felt like an international family. By this point, we obviously didn’t chose Jungle because it was a way to make money off music, but just because we couldn’t help it – Jungle called us and we followed.
Baby Demo – Warrior
D.I.S. in Kiev 2007
Here’s the point in time that I moved to Europe.
I come from a city called Ottawa. Haven’t heard of it? Actually it is the capital of Canada, and even with 1 million inhabitants, it feels like a really quiet and small town. With the closeby larger cities of Toronto and Montreal, parties were happening regularly and could range from less than 50 people to thousands when done right. Jungle had been in our blood since the beginning and there are still many people producing Jungle from my area, as well as stateside. The label I started on, and my label also started in Los Angeles. They have an aggressive west-coast jungle sound that I was instantly drawn to, and I find myself at home with my friends there and when I visit. But records of a more mellow sound were also released and came from further east-coast back then. Although a few of us tried to make a living from it, most of the jungle producers are just normal people you wouldn’t expect day to day working a regular job and make no money off their music.
Ninjah Fareye (from Ottawa) – Can’t Stand It
The European party scene thrives because they go all night. But also there are so many more party people that are just used to finding an event to go to each weekend. There are so many people in fact, that several successful parties can happen simultaneously on Fridays and Saturdays in the same city all across Europe. I have been lucky enough to be one of the last generations to successfully release music in a physical form: vinyl. And this vinyl made its way all across the world and helped me establish a reputable name for myself in the first jungle music “renaissance” from the 2000’s. I never stopped, either. I am still releasing vinyl and have a library of hundreds of original jungle productions in my gig bag. So I continue to tour mostly Europe playing shows on weekends a couple of times a month.
DJ K – Brighter Dayz (2013 remix)
Where is Jungle big today? In Bristol and in UK festivals all across Great Britain. Along with a ton of new producers in the area, a lot of the original producers from back when have come back to make new Jungle of all kinds.
Boomtown Fair 2013
Congo Natty – Notorious 2012 (read “Not exactly Jungle”)
Traditional sound Jungle producers (chopped up beats, many samples) are still numerous, and come from all over, but they can be hard to find, even for some of us deep in the underground niche ourselves.
Kid Lib (UK) – Mixtape
Feyder (Russia) – That’s My Number
Shaka Itchi (Japan) – Sakigake Jungle Spirit
Not exactly “Jungle”
Regarding different jungle styles these days, an important distinction should be made: although the word jungle traditionally meant chopped-up and organic-sounding drum samples, there has been a further split I haven’t mentioned that happened all along, and if you search YouTube for “jungle”, most likely you will end up finding something else: Dubwise. Dubwise is a hybrid of drum & bass and jungle. Taking the strong and simple beats of drum & bass but instead of going heavy into synths like dnb, it overlays dub, reggae and soundystem samples. But the distinction is not black-and-white. There is a fine grey area between where organic drum loops are used in a slightly more predictable pattern that COULD be called jungle, but (to me) leans more to the drum & bass crowd.
Benny Page – Turn Down the Lights
Serial Killaz – Ghetto Yout
Aries, Gold Bevan & Andy Sim – Sun is Shining
New tracks are not only limited to Jungle and Dubwise.. there are many sub-branches that have developed along the way and continue to evolve alongside, and can usually appear at the same events on the same stage. Two with strong followings are Tek and Breakcore. New productions are modern, while still staying true to the roots of the original Jungle feeling.
Vandal live (TEK)
Bong Ra live (BREAKCORE)
Where are the jungle parties?
You can find jungle stages in (just to name a FEW) Czech Republic, in Croatia at Outlook festival, smaller parties in Belgium and Netherlands, Austria continues to enjoy it, and I have been playing often in Lithuania and the rest of Eastern Europe including Russia, Ukraine and countries not actually in Europe, where the sounds has been welcomed with open arms.
Me in Saint Petersburg Russia in 2014
DJ K is a Jungle DJ & Producer. He has been active since 1999, you can follow him at killarecords.com
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