Jungle is a genre of electronic music derived from breakbeat hardcore that developed in England in the early 1990s as part of UK rave scenes.

The style is characterized by fast tempos (150 to 200 bpm), breakbeats, dub reggae basslines, heavily syncopated percussive loops, samples, and synthesized effects.

Long pitch-shifted snare rolls are common in old-school jungle. Jungle was a predecessor to drum and bass, a well-known genre of electronic music.

Producers create the drum patterns by cutting apart breakbeats, the most common of which is the Amen break. Jungle producers incorporate classic Jamaican/Caribbean sound-system culture production methods.

The slow, deep basslines and simple melodies are reminiscent of those found in dub, reggae, and dancehall. These features give jungle its “rolling” quality.

Origin of the name Jungle

Producers and DJs of the early 1990s, including MC 5ive ‘0, Groove Connection and Kingsley Roast, attribute the origin of the word in the scene to pioneers Moose, Soundman and Johnny Jungle.

Jungle’ stems from the term ‘junglist‘, which refers to people from Arnett Gardens, an area of Kingston. It is often noted that Rebel MC popularised the term in the UK by sampling the phrase ‘alla the junglists‘ from a tape of a sound-system party in Kingston.

Sociocultural Context

Jungle was a form of cultural expression for London’s lower class urban youth.

The post-Thatcherite United Kingdom of the early 1990s had left many young urbanites disenfranchised and disillusioned with a seemingly crumbling societal structure.

Jungle reflected these feelings; it was a notably more dark, less euphoric style of music than many of the other styles popular at raves.

The music was much more popular with black British youths than other rave styles, such as techno, even though it was heavily influenced by these other rave styles, including those that emerged from the United States.

Jungle’s rhythm-as-melody style overturned the dominance of melody-over-rhythm in the hierarchy of Western music, adding to its radical nature.

Jungle music, as a scene, was unable to decide whether it wanted to be recognized in the mainstream or if it wanted to avoid misrepresentation.

This manifested in the cooperation of Jungle artists and small record labels. Small record labels work to provide more autonomy to the music artists in return for their business and jungle music was proliferated by pirate stations in underground networks and clubs.

An example of this conflict is General Levy, a reggae artist, who was criticized for selling out to the mainstream when his single, “Incredible,” made the UK single charts in 1994. There was a mixed view of his work as many did not like his claim as “King of Jungle“.

At the same time, his work allowed popular recognition which may not have occurred otherwise.

The emergence of the Jungle sound

In the summer of 1992, a Thursday night club in London called Rage was changing the format in response to the commercialization of the rave scene.

Resident DJs Fabio and Grooverider, amongst others, began to take the hardcore sound to a new level. The speed of the music increased from 120 bpm to 150 bpm, while more ragga and dancehall elements were brought in and techno, disco and house influences were decreased.

Giorgio Moroder’s rhythmic simplification in the form of Eurodisco was reversed by the development of jungle. The safety of the trance-like state produced by disco and house was replaced with the edginess and danger of disruptive beats.

When breakbeat hardcore lost the four-on-the-floor beat and created percussive elements solely from “chopped up” breakbeats, people began to use the terms ‘jungle‘, ‘junglist‘ and ‘junglism‘ to describe the music itself. This was reflected in track titles of the era, typically from late 1992 and early 1993.

Rage shut its doors in 1993, but the new legion of jungle had evolved, changing dancing styles for the faster music, enjoying the off-beat rhythms and with less reliance on the chemical stimulation of the rave era.

One of the most widely used and distinctive breakbeats in the genre of jungle music is the “Amen break“. The snare-and-cymbal sequence first appeared in The Winstons’s 1969 single “Amen, Brother“, and has since been chopped up, recycled, and remixed into countless drumbeats underlying most of the genre.

Similarities with hip hop

Jungle shares a number of similarities with hip-hop. Both genres of music are produced using the same types of equipment: samplers, drum machines, microphones, and sequencers.

Furthermore, both types of music contain the same primary components, including “rhythmic complexity, repetition with subtle variations, the significance of the drum, melodic interest in bass frequencies and breaks in pitch and time.“.

Breakbeat science

The maturation of Jungle coincided with an increasing ease of computer-based music production, allowing beats to be chopped, processed, and resequenced into higher and higher levels of complexity.

Producers began meticulously building breakbeats from scratch with extreme precision, sequencing together individual single shot samples. The percussion took on an eerie chromatic quality through digital effects like time-stretching/compression, pitch shifting, ghosting, and psychedelia style reverse.

The resultant polyrhythms of jungle’s “rhythmic psychedelia” triggered a physical as well as mental disorientation in the listener/dancer.

The melodic, textural bass differentiated Jungle from the metronomic, pulsating sound of mainstream dance music. This new “dangerbass” was physically experienced and multi-layered.

Rise and popularity

Jungle music burst onto the scene in the early 1990s as a genre of music arising from techno with strong influences from hip-hop.

It became a convergence of the African-American and African-Caribbean diaspora. Simon Reynolds’ article looked at the rise of Jungle music, the techniques, and influences involved in its creation, and the reasons for the boom in popularity.

He also discussed the nuances of Jungle and the importance of technology in its creation. Coming into popularity in the early 1990s it was ridiculously upbeat, intense, and even discombobulating. Reynolds compared the effect to that of “a shrew on the verge of a coronary, or, more to the point, a raver’s heartbeat after necking three E’s.

Characterized by the breakbeats and multi-tiered rhythms, Jungle drew support from British b-boys who got swept up into the rave scene, but also from reggae, dancehall, electro, and rap fans alike.

Reynolds described it as causing fear and “for many ravers, too funky to dance” yet the club scene enjoyed every second.


*This article was originally published at en.wikipedia.org.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Bret Bernhoft

    The similarities shared between Hip Hop and Jungle are an underappreciated set of intersections within music. Both in terms of history and creating art. It’s nice to see this article mention that overlap.

    In my opinion, Hip Hop and Jungle are expressions of a common moment in time; wherein the Caribbean hosted the beginning of what we currently refer to as “electronic music”. The story is a great example of humanity’s ability to adapt to new tools, using the same original motivations.

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