The Importance of Jungle

Picture: Eddie Otchere

Picture: Eddie Otchere

Childhood & Becoming British

It’s either 2003 or 2004, a six-year-old or seven-years-old me, is in the back seat of a green Grand Cherokee Jeep car. A 1995 Jungle Mania cassette tape blasts full volume on the car stereo on the way back home from after school club.

I’m in my school uniform, seat belt strapped-on, bouncing to a wild 150 to 200 bpm tempo. The music covered with reggae, dub and hip-hop sampling, a sprinkling of firing gun shots played in the background, and constant wheels up happening every three minutes. Thinking about it... it’s not the best material to play in front of a child, but my old man did not care and wanted me to soak in all of this iconic genre. After all, he saw the bands I liked at the time such as Busted as pure shite (which to this day I still do not agree).

My dad is driving away, laughing and shouting like a lunatic in his strong African accent, and declaring to me in that moment that he is an atrocious MC. Thinking about that time to me is a real exemplification on what music can do to bring people joy.

I have grown up with Jungle music, due to my parents especially my dad (big up Oscar), being fans of the genre. My father credits the genre for helping him to appreciate the UK after his arrival.

My parents are Congolese immigrants who moved to the United Kingdom in the late 80s to escape a country that was about to enter civil war. Like many foreign immigrants fleeing their home country, the two found it hard to identify themselves as British. It was hard to accept their new country. But when Jungle music arrived in British clubs in the early and mid-90s, the genre was this new exciting sound. The pair became eager to understand it more and found a new sub-culture to get involved in.

An evolution

In the early 1990s, Acid House had now become commercialised and many DJs began to move away from the genre. Music label 'Shut Up and Dance', and acclaimed DJs Fabio and Grooverider, were part of the Acid House movement. Yet, left and began experimenting with Hip-Hop breakbeats as well as shifting to to a dance tempo.

Out of this, the genre would give birth to Jungle. 'Deejays', the Jamaican term for rapping, such as the Ragga Twins started to get involved in the breakbeat sound. They were the first to incorporate Reggae and Dancehall and are credited with forming the Jungle genre; whereby producers would sample classic Jamaican/Caribbean music.

In 1993, Jungle had finally cemented itself as a popular and thrilling new genre. Many people began to be part of the subculture and the term 'Jungalist' emerged to describe avid listeners. In its early days, Jungle was not popular with mainstream Britain, and would not be heard on radio stations such as Radio 1.

Welcome

This provided a gateway for young people living in the council flats in London, to be creative and entrepreneurial. The genre saw the rise of records labels being formed, among them was: Goldie’s Metalheadz, Shy FX’s Digital Soundboy and LTJ Bukem‘s Good Lookin Records. Alongside this, new radio stations began to operate and the Jungle era saw the launches of influential stations such as Rinse and Kool FM operating illegally. All these organisations main agenda was not to be rich and famous, it was to simply showcase Jungle music to an audience.

In 1994/1995, Jungle reached its peak and saw the likes of M-Beat & General Levy reaching the Top 10 in the UK Singles Chart with the Jungle anthem ‘Incredible’ in 1994, and Goldie’s classic debut album Timeless reaching no.8 in the album’s chart in 1995. After being underground for so long, the genre had finally triumphed to reach the top. As it finally reached the mainstream, the genre was now becoming a profitable industry and began to be commercialised. Every major label was now looking for the next Goldie, and just like its predecessor (Acid House), DJs wanted to move away from it. Jungle’s younger siblings Drum and Bass and UK Garage came to attention and were the new sounds of the underground.

Even though Jungle had a great existence for a short amount of time, it still should be considered as one of Britain’s important music genres. The music has many similarities to other genres such as Punk, as the two are movements built from a Do-It-Yourself attitude by young people.

A jungle legacy

Jungle also paved the way for other music genres such as Drum & Bass, UK Garage and Grime to be formed and created a legacy which is still embedded today, especially in Grime music. Many Grime MC’s such as Dizzee Rascal, Wiley, and right down to the new gen such as Novelist, have all honoured Jungle to have played an instrumental part towards the sound of their music.

Jungle did not only influence music, the genre also influenced style and fashion among ravers. The genre saw the rise of British working-class kids styling themselves in Moschino, Iceberg and other high designer brands. To me what makes Jungle special is that the music is always fresh as ever, but most significantly, black Britain had created a wonderful movement which could be enjoyed and embraced for all, and be a sound which represented Multicultural Britain.