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Jungle music

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Jungle is a genre of electronic music that developed out of the UK rave scene and roots reggae and dancehall sound system culture in the 1990s. Emerging from breakbeat hardcore, the style is characterised by rapid breakbeats, heavily syncopated percussive loops, samples, and synthesised effects, combined with the deep basslines, melodies, and vocal samples found in dub, reggae and dancehall, as well as hip hop and funk. Many producers frequently sampled the "Amen break" or other breakbeats from funk and jazz recordings.[1] Jungle was a direct precursor to the drum and bass genre which emerged in the mid-1990s.[2][3]

Departing from the customary predictability found in machine-generated dance music, where a consistent pulse facilitates a trance-like state for the listener, jungle introduces a palpable sense of jeopardy. The accustomed safety net is forsaken in favour of an inherent risk, prompting a recalibration of one's movement and a heightened state of vigilance. This distinctive edginess associated with jungle proved instrumental in redirecting the allegiance of numerous ravers away from the hardcore music scene, steering them back towards the embrace of house music.[4]



The origin of the word jungle is one of discussion. Rebel MC is often noted for having popularised the term, and in Simon Reynolds' book Energy Flash, MC Navigator is quoted as attributing the word to him.[5] Others such as MC Five-O attribute it to MC Moose,[6] whilst Rob Playford (of Moving Shadow) attributes it to MC Mad P (of Top Buzz).[7] Some thought of this term as empowering, an assertion of the blackness of the music and its subculture, inverting the racist history of the term "jungle music".[8]



The breakbeat hardcore scene of the early 1990s was beginning to fragment by 1992/1993, with different influences becoming less common together in tracks. The piano and uplifting vocal style that was prevalent in breakbeat hardcore started to lay down the foundations of 4-beat/happy hardcore, whilst tracks with dark-themed samples and industrial-style stabs had emerged from late 1992 and named darkcore. Reggae samples and reggae-influenced tracks had been a feature of many breakbeat hardcore tracks since 1990, particularly from producers such as Shut Up and Dance,[9] however Ibiza Records,[10] and the Rebel MC were arguably the first to bring the sound system influence solidly into releases. The track "We Are I.E." by Lennie De-Ice is often credited as being the track that laid down the foundations for jungle with its ragga bassline.[11]

The infiltration of hardcore B-boys into the rave scene was catalyst for "the messy birth-pangs of Britain's very own equivalent to US hip hop: jungle."[12] The UK B-boy's removal from American racial tensions made hip-hop's sample and beat-making more attractive than the "protest side of rap," and spurred on their interest in the rave scene.[12] Alongside their 'sampladelic' taste, raving B-boys' use of MDMA fueled the more hyper sound that was passed down to jungle, even after the drug was left for marijuana.

During 1992 and 1993, the phrases "jungle techno" and "hardcore jungle" proliferated to describe that shift of the music from breakbeat hardcore to jungle. The sound was championed at clubs such as A.W.O.L., Roast, and Telepathy, by DJs such as DJ Ron, DJ Hype, Mickey Finn, DJ Rap, DJ Dextrous, and Kenny Ken, record labels Moving Shadow, V Recordings, Suburban Base, and Renk,[13] and on pirate radio stations such as Kool FM (regarded as being the most instrumental station in the development of jungle) but also Don FM, Rush, and Rude FM.

Tracks would span breakbeat styles, particularly with darkcore, with notable releases including "Darkage" by DJ Solo, "Valley of the Shadows" by Origin Unknown, "Set Me Free" by Potential Bad Boy, "28 Gun Bad Boy" by A Guy Called Gerald, "Crackman" by DJ Ron, "A London Sumtin" by Code 071, "Learning from My Brother" by Family of Intelligence, "Lion of Judah" by X Project, and "Be Free" by Noise Factory.

Techniques and styles could be traced to such a vast group of influencers, each adding their own little elements. According to Simon Reynolds, jungle was "Britain's very own equivalent to US hip-hop. That said, you could equally make the case that jungle is a raved-up, digitised offshoot of Jamaican reggae. Musically, jungle's spatialised production, bass quake pressure and battery of extreme sonic effects, make it a sort of postmodern dub music on steroids."[14] This is an example of the effects of the sonic diaspora and the wide influence musical genres have; Jungle is where these different Black Atlantic genres converge.[14] Reynolds noted the audience of the genre evolved alongside the music itself; going from a "sweaty, shirtless white teenager, grinning and gurning" to a "head nodding, stylishly dressed black twenty something with hooded-eyes, holding a spliff in one hand and a bottle of champagne in the other".[14] Jungle also served as "a site for a battle between contesting notions of blackness".[8]

Rise and popularity

All Junglists, seminal Channel 4 documentary 1994

Jungle reached the peak of its popularity in 1994/1995. At this stage, the genre was achieving a number of UK top 40 hits, most notably "Incredible" by M-Beat featuring General Levy, and spawned a series of CD compilations such as Jungle Mania and Jungle Hits. Controversy raged over the success of "Incredible" when Levy reportedly made comments in the media that he was "running jungle at the moment". Although Levy always argued that his comments were misinterpreted, this did not fail to stop a boycott of the single amongst a group of DJs that were dubbed as the "Jungle Committee".[15][16] Labels such as Ibiza, 3rd Party and Kemet were prolific in their releases.[17]

Having previously been confined to pirate radio, legal stations woke up to jungle from 1994. London's Kiss 100 launched its Givin' It Up show in early 1994 and featured DJs such as Kenny Ken, Jumpin Jack Frost, DJ Rap, and Mickey Finn. A year later, the UK's nationwide broadcaster BBC Radio 1 finally gave jungle a platform on its One in the Jungle weekly show.[18]

Major labels such as Sony and BMG were signing deals with artists including A Guy Called Gerald, Kemet, and DJ Ron. Of these, Roni Size and 4hero would achieve wider commercial success as drum and bass artists, but continued to release more underground jungle tracks — the latter adopting the alias Tom & Jerry to continue to release rare groove sampling dancefloor-oriented jungle. The underground classic "Burial" by Leviticus would see a major release on FFRR Records.

Jungle music, as a scene, was unable to decide whether it wanted to be recognised in the mainstream or if it wanted to avoid misrepresentation.[14] This manifested in the cooperation of jungle artists and small record labels. Small record labels worked 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. Whilst the media would in part feed off jungle music success, it also perpetuated negative stereotypes about the scene as being violent. The seminal 1994 documentary A London Some 'Ting Dis, chronicled the growing jungle scene and interviewed producers, DJs, and ravers to counter this perception.[19][20]

1996 and 1997 saw a less reggae-influenced sound and a darker, grittier, and more sinister soundscape. Hip-hop and jazz-influenced tracks dominated the clubs in this period.[8] Dillinja, Roni Size, Die, Hype, Zinc, Alex Reece and Krust were instrumental in the transition of the jungle sound to drum and bass. By the end of 1998, the genre's sound had changed forms significantly from the sound heard earlier in the decade.




Raggacore is a fusion genre that combines jungle with a heavy reggae influence. It would become a major subgenre during 1994 and 1995, with popular tracks such as "Incredible" by M-Beat featuring General Levy, "Original Nuttah" by UK Apachi and Shy FX, "Sound Murderer / RIP" by Remarc, "Limb by Limb" by Hitman featuring Cutty Ranks, and "Code Red / Champion DJ" by Conquering Lion.[21]



In 1995, jump-up would also become a popular subgenre that came out of hardstep, with influences of various kinds of sound experiments, most importantly the bass line. Popular tracks of this subgenre include "Dred Bass" by Dead Dred, "Super Sharp Shooter" by DJ Zinc, "This Style" by Shy FX, "R.I.P" (DJ Hype Remix) by Remarc and DJ Zinc's remix of the Fugees' "Ready or Not". The genre would later regain popularity in the early 2000s with new productions by artists such as Shimon & Andy C, Bad Company, DJ Hazard and Pendulum.[22]

Sociocultural context


The post-Thatcherite United Kingdom of the early 1990s had left many young people, particularly London's lower-class urban youth, disenfranchised and disillusioned with a seemingly crumbling societal structure. Jungle reflected these feelings, as 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 from the United States.[14] Jungle was also seen as "England's answer to hip-hop", aimed at breaking down racial boundaries and promoting unification through its multiculturalism by drawing from different cultures and attracting mixed crowds at raves.[8] Jungle's rhythm-as-melody style overturned the dominance of melody-over-rhythm in the hierarchy of Western music, adding to its radical nature.[14]

Moreover, the greater accessibility to sampling technology allowed young people to create music in their homes by incorporating their own sampling and experiences, rather than needing a grand recording studio.[23]

Characterised by the breakbeats and multi-tiered rhythms, Jungle drew support not only from British b-boys who got swept up into the rave scene, but also from reggae, dancehall, electro and rap fans alike. Simon Reynolds described it as causing fear and "for many ravers, too funky to dance"[14] yet the club scene enjoyed every second.

Notable releases


Notable releases include: "Burial" by Leviticus, "Dangerous" by DJ Ron, "Lover to Lover / Maximum Style" by Tom & Jerry, "Original Nuttah" by Shy FX, "All the Crew Big Up" by Roni Size & DJ Die, "Incredible / Sweet Love" by M-Beat, "The Helicopter Tune" by Deep Blue, "Super Sharp Shooter" by DJ Zinc, "Sovereign Melody / Lion Heart" by Dillinja, "Everyman" by Kenny Ken, "The Victory / Lovable" by DJ Dextrous, "Bad Ass" by Aphrodite, "The Lighter" by DJ SS, and "Tiger Style" by DJ Hype.[24][25][26][27]

Crossover with drum and bass


The term "jungle" is often used as a synonym for drum and bass, particularly in the United States. More commonly, jungle is viewed as the originating point for drum and bass, with the progressive changes brought by artists in the late 1990s serving as the point of diversion (some examples being Trace & Ed Rush, LTJ Bukem, Photek, Total Science, Goldie and Optical). During this time, a false dichotomy was established between drum and bass and jungle, with the former for white ravers and the latter for black ravers.[28] The sub-genre of drum and bass developed to be quicker, more industrial, less danceable yet was seen as more 'accessible and commercial' than jungle, as cited in an article by The Observer in 1996.[29] In Black Music in Britain in the 21st Century, written by Julia Toppin in 2023, she explains, "the process of modifying jungle's name can be viewed as an 'act of resignifying the otherness' to disassociate it from black people and the racist media narratives containing race, drugs, and violence with jungle music and the scene."[30] The jungle scene had always been portrayed in a negative light due to its affiliation with the rave scene and especially because of the black people associated with the music. The security and drug incidents at jungle events typically seemed to attract more police attention than other EDM genres, though the same trouble would happen in any other raves attended by predominately white audiences. With the emergence of drum and bass, the previous biases against jungle intensified while drum and bass's popularity grew rapidly in mainstream media. In her article, Toppin highlights the sonic marginalization that occurred during the late 1990s, with black jungle ravers declined entry at night clubs and DJs being shadow-banned from playing jungle at venues.[31] This would lead to jungle's return to the underground at the end of the decade.

Re-emergent jungle scene

Congo Natty, Jungle Revolution album tour, 2013

A thriving underground movement producing and developing tracks in the style of the 1990s and some original (though mostly mainstream drum and bass) jungle producers have noticed this new enthusiasm for the original sound. Shy FX, for example, launched the Digital Soundboy label in 2005 to put out more jungle.

The early to mid-2000s saw a jungle revival in the emerging drum-funk subgenre, with labels such as Scientific Wax, Bassbin Records and Paradox Music pushing for a more breaks orientated sound. Technicality and Bassbin events in London were spearheading this return to more traditional elements of jungle music.

The UK is still the spiritual home and nucleus of jungle to this day. An event called Rupture gained popularity between 2007 and the present for hosting and promoting more traditional styled jungle/drum & bass music and artists. The event and subsequent label have promoted new producers such as Forest Drive West, Tim Reaper, Dead Man's Chest and Sully, and the scene is very much thriving. As well as old heads and artists coming out of retirement, modern jungle is enjoyed by the younger generations who missed jungle the first time around.[32][33]

One of the scene's originators, Congo Natty, continued to release jungle music throughout the 2000s, culminating in the 2013 album Jungle Revolution.[34]

In 2018, Chase & Status capitalised on the current trend of jungle with their album RTRN II JUNGLE. The album was not however jungle in its pure form, and catered more towards pop music fans.[35]

Black women in jungle


As is the case with the development of many other music scenes, the importance of black women is often understated within jungle. When drum and bass took over from jungle and the latter became ostracized in the music scene, black women "felt like they were being squeezed out of spaces that once felt like ‘home’", as stated by Toppin.[36] In their opinion, drum and bass was sterile, lacked warmth and the heavy basslines and soulful vocals which defined jungle and were replaced with a much quicker and artificial sound which was difficult to dance to. Previously, black women saw jungle raves as liberating experiences that allowed for intoxication, that provided a space for them to be united with one another but also the greater community. Toppin mentions stories of "groups of stylish black women who would turn up to jungle raves and dramatically ‘take over’ the dance floor."[37]

Moreover, many black women were professional MCs and DJs who were active in the scene. In her book, Black Music in Britain in the Twenty-First Century, a black woman interviewed by Toppin listed at least fifteen DJs and MCs and specifically, two named DJ Flight and DJ Kemistry as prominent female figures in jungle.[38] Most, if not all black women recognized and formed relationships with other black women in the scene.

This has not deterred the passion that black female junglists have for the culture. In May 2020, the Black Junglist Alliance was formed with a black woman as one of its founding members. The organization aims "to attract and nurture the next generation of black junglists and to inform drum and bass fans of the real history of the genre."[39] Many of the black women who followed jungle into the underground stayed with the genre, and are still active to this day.


  1. ^ Butler, Mark J. (2006), Unlocking the groove: Rhythm, meter, and musical design in electronic dance music, Indiana University Press, p. 78, ISBN 978-0-253-34662-9, Even more common, especially in jungle/drum 'n' bass, is a break ... which fans and musicians commonly refer to as the 'Amen' break.
  2. ^ Murphy, Ben (4 January 2018). "These are the drum 'n' bass sub-genres that you need to know". Red Bull Music Academy. Archived from the original on 21 June 2023. Retrieved 25 December 2020.
  3. ^ Shapiro, Peter (2000). Modulations: A history of electronic music. Throbbing Words on Sound. Caipirinha. pp. 132–134. ISBN 9781891024061.
  4. ^ Reynolds, Simon (1999). Generation Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture. doi:10.4324/9780203824962. ISBN 9780415923736.
  5. ^ Reynolds, Simon (1998). Energy Flash. Picador. According to MC Navigator from Kool FM, 'jungle' comes from 'junglist', and was first heard in 1991 as a sample used by Rebel MC. "Rebel got this chant - all the junglists - from a yard-tape" referring to the sound-system mix-tapes imported from Jamaica. "When Rebel sampled that, the people cottoned on, and soon they started to call the music jungle.
  6. ^ Belle-Fortune, Brian (2004). All Crews. Vision. "Moose was the first person I heard using the word 'jungle'. It just came to us. Original hardcore jungle. Like you was in Africa. Like something tribal. It just came.
  7. ^ Belle-Fortune, Brian (2004). All Crews. Vision. He said it was 'hardcore-jungle-techno'. It was known for that for several months... just dropping of all the other words. We'd had hardcore and techno... but this was 'jungle'.
  8. ^ a b c d Zuberi, Nabeel (2001). "Black Whole Styles: Sound, Technology, and Diaspora Aesthetics". Sounds English: Transnational Popular Music: 131–180.
  9. ^ Belle-Fortune, Brian (2004). All Crews. Vision. They didn't know what they were going to label this type of music. They didn't care. They were specialising in heavy reggae with breakbeats.
  10. ^ Belle-Fortune, Brian (2004). All Crews. Vision. At Ibiza Records, Paul was tired of foreign sounds running the British dance scene. That's when Ibiza Records started. Paul fused the bleeps and breaks with reggae b-lines. The sound elements worked. The reggae influence worked.
  11. ^ Bradley, Lloyd (2013). Sounds Like London: 100 Years of Black Music in the Capital. Serpent's Tail. What's acknowledged to be the earliest jungle tune, despite its lack of toasting, dates from 1989. Built on a ragga bassline, "We Are I.E." by young London Lennie De-Ice rules dancefloors.
  12. ^ a b Reynolds, Simon (1998). Sounds of Paranoia Trip-Hop, Tricky, and Pre-Millennium Tension, 1990-97 (1st ed.). pp. 237–254. ISBN 9780203824962.
  13. ^ "Gone To A Rave#43: The Untold Story Of Renk Records". The Ransom Note. 5 April 2017. Archived from the original on 15 June 2020. Retrieved 14 June 2020.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g Reynolds, Simon (1998). Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture. Picador. ISBN 0330350560.
  15. ^ "Exclusive: General Levy's 'Incredible' Journey". DJ Magazine. 19 January 2015. Archived from the original on 26 September 2020. Retrieved 14 June 2020.
  16. ^ James, Martin (1997). State Of Bass. Boxtree. pp. 35–36, 61–62. ISBN 0752223232.
  17. ^ "Gone To A Rave #41: Kemet & 3rd Party". The Ransom Note. 5 April 2017. Archived from the original on 15 June 2020. Retrieved 14 June 2020.
  18. ^ James, Martin (1997). State Of Bass. Boxtree. pp. 58–60. ISBN 0752223232.
  19. ^ "All Junglists! A London Somet'ing Dis (1994)". BFI. Archived from the original on May 18, 2017. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  20. ^ "A London Some'ting Dis Documentary". Rave-archive.com. 19 March 2013. Archived from the original on 23 October 2020. Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  21. ^ "Ragga Jungle". 12 Edit. 21 September 2016. Archived from the original on 11 August 2020. Retrieved 15 June 2020.
  22. ^ "Jump-Up". 12 Edit. 11 May 2017. Archived from the original on 8 June 2023. Retrieved 15 June 2020.
  23. ^ "All Black – Jungle Fever - 4:3". Boilerroom.tv. Archived from the original on 2023-05-16. Retrieved 2023-05-16.
  24. ^ "The 10 Best Jungle Tracks of All Time, according to General Levy". Dummymag. 19 March 2019. Archived from the original on 14 June 2020. Retrieved 14 June 2020.
  25. ^ "The 20 best jungle tracks ever". Time Out. 23 May 2018. Archived from the original on 14 June 2020. Retrieved 14 June 2020.
  26. ^ "7 jungle classics that still tear up the dance". Red Bull Music Academy. 31 January 2018. Archived from the original on 14 June 2020. Retrieved 14 June 2020.
  27. ^ "20 Essential Jungle Tunes Everyone Should Know About". Ukf.com. 20 August 2017. Archived from the original on 14 June 2020. Retrieved 14 June 2020.
  28. ^ Toppin, Julia (2023). "Jungle: A Critical Intersectional History". Black Music in Britain in the 21st Century: 93.
  29. ^ Toppin, Julia (2023). "Jungle: A Critical Intersectional History". Black Music in Britain in the 21st Century: 92.
  30. ^ Toppin, Julia (2023). "Jungle: A Critical Intersectional History". Black Music in Britain in the 21st Century: 93.
  31. ^ Toppin, Julia (2023). "Jungle: A Critical Intersectional History". Black Music in Britain in the 21st Century: 94.
  32. ^ "The return of jungle". DJ Magazine. 21 March 2018. Archived from the original on 7 May 2021. Retrieved 7 May 2021.
  33. ^ "10 killer new jungle tracks". DJ Magazine. 22 March 2018. Archived from the original on 14 June 2020. Retrieved 14 June 2020.
  34. ^ Ben Beaumont-Thomas (4 July 2013). "Congo Natty and the jungle revolution". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 23 August 2020. Retrieved 18 August 2020.
  35. ^ "Chase & Status announce brand new album RTRN II Jungle". Red Bull Music Academy. 15 August 2018. Archived from the original on 9 November 2020. Retrieved 14 June 2020.
  36. ^ Toppin, Julia (2023). "Jungle: A Critical Intersectional History". Black Music in Britain in the 21st Century: 98.
  37. ^ Toppin, Julia (2023). "Jungle: A Critical Intersectional History". Black Music in Britain in the 21st Century: 96.
  38. ^ Toppin, Julia (2023). "Jungle: A Critical Intersectional History". Black Music in Britain in the 21st Century: 99.
  39. ^ Toppin, Julia (2023). "Jungle: A Critical Intersectional History". Black Music in Britain in the 21st Century: 95.

Further reading

  • Simon Reynolds, Energy Flash: Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture, Picador, 1998. (ISBN 0330350560)
  • Martin James, State of Bass: Jungle the story so far, Boxtree, 1997. (ISBN 0752223232)
  • Brian Belle-Fortune, All Crews: Journeys Through Jungle/Drum and Bass Culture, Vision, 2004. (ISBN 0954889703)