Styles & Forms | Jungle | Dance

Jungle was a reaction against happy rave’s crossover commercialism. The music did not so much die as go back underground, becoming darker and more sinister in order to reflect the prevailing, early 1990s mood.

By this time in dance music, there had been plenty of media scare stories about ecstasy fatalities. As drug use spiralled for some clubbers, tracks such as 4Hero’s ‘Mr Kirk’s Nightmare’ (Reinforced), Ed Rush’s ‘Bloodclot Artattack’ (No U-Turn) and Origin Unknown’s ‘Valley Of The Shadows’ (Ram), reflected the mood of a scene riven with drug casualties and near-death experiences.

DJs such as Fabio and Grooverider would increase the tempo on breakbeat house tracks by pitching up the speed on the record decks. In a mutually beneficial synergy of DJ/producer development, producers began creating more of a mutated, Jamaican ragamuffin/dancehall techno sound, which DJs aimed to emulate with their cutting-up turntable tricks. With dancehall samples and other sound system traditions, such as the use of exclusive solitary vinyl dubplate pressings by DJs and the exuberance of motormouth MCs, a black element became more evident in the music, although jungle was avowedly multiracial from its inception.

The actual origins of the term ‘jungle’ are disputable. One story claims that it sprang from a sample used by the producer Rebel MC citing ‘alla the junglists’. One of DJ Hype’s crew, Pascal, recording as Johnny Jungle, was the first producer to use the term on vinyl. Another tale has it that the urban-jungle metaphor, used in black music history by everyone from Sly Stone and Grandmaster Flash to The Wailers, simply seemed to fit the music perfectly.

It’s A Jungle Out There

Cascading like tangled vines, the polyrhythmic breakbeats almost gave the dance floor the feel of a sonic jungle. As producers experimented with new techniques such as time-stretching, an identifiable sound emerged. The rhythm is the melody in jungle, and its deadly, half-speed bassline gives it two levels at which you can dance – skanking at 70 beats per minute as if dancing to ska, then flailing to the skittering drums where desired. Some saw this new sound as devoid of a feminine element, and the combative dancing as too masculine. But the number of ragga gals who would wind their bodies to the music put an end to that notion.

Turned onto the music by future DJs Kemistry and Storm at Rage, a young graffiti artist named Goldie began to make exhilarating, disturbing, futuristic opuses such as ‘Terminator’. Despite its uniqueness, the sound was pointedly ignored by the media, even the newly formed dance-music press.

The number of black faces on the scene seemed to scare some people too, and jungle nights were largely restricted to the outskirts of a city. When the media did decide to look into the scene, scare stories involving crack and guns at raves tarnished its image, leading some, mistakenly, to believe that jungle was dominated by gun-toting, crack-smoking bad boys.

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Source: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music, general editor Paul Du Noyer


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