This blogpost is mainly for those new to these music genres, but the veterans might enjoy the documentaries included on this page. A BBC documentary from 1994, one on LTJ Bukem, Goldie etc.
I mainly have experience and knowledge within the Drum ‘n Bass scene, the 1990’s is what is closest to my heart, and especially the so-called “Liquid” stuff without vocals is what gets me.
Jungle is a genre of dance music that developed out of the UK rave scene and sound system culture in the 1990s. Emerging from breakbeat hardcore, the style is characterized by rapid breakbeats, heavily syncopated percussive loops, samples, and synthesized 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. Jungle was a direct precursor to the drum and bass genre which emerged in the mid 1990s.
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, however Ibiza Records, 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 layed down the foundations for jungle with its ragga bassline.
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 Dextrous, and Kenny Ken, record labels Moving Shadow, V Recordings, Suburban Base, and Renk, 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 like: “Britain’s very own equivalent to US hip-hop. That said, you could equally make the case that jungle is a raved-up, digitized offshoot of Jamaican reggae. Musically, Jungle’s spatialized production, bass quake pressure and battery of extreme sonic effects, make it a sort of postmodern dub on steroids.” 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. 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.” Jungle also served as “a site for a battle between contesting notions of blackness”.
Rise and Popularity
Jungle reached the peak of its popularity in 1994/1995. At this stage, the genre was spawning 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”. A 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”. Labels such Ibiza, 3rd Party and Kemet were prolific in their releases.
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.
Major labels such 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 continue 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. Ragga jungle would become a major subgenre during 1994 and 1995, with “Original Gangster / Nuttah” by Shy FX, “Sound Murderer / RIP” by Remarc, “Limb By Limb” by Hitmanfeaturing Cutty Ranks, and “Code Red / Champion DJ” by Conquering Lion. In 1995, ‘jump-up’ would also become a popular subgenre, borrowing from hip hop, and divided opinion.
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. Whilst the media would in part feed of 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.
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. 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 that heard earlier in the decade.
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 people 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 was also seen as “England’s answer to hip-hop”, with the goal of breaking down racial boundaries and promoting unification through its multiculturalism—drawing from different cultures and attracting mixed crowds at raves. Jungle’s rhythm-as-melody style overturned the dominance of melody-over-rhythm in the hierarchy of Western music, adding to its radical nature.
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.
The origin of the word jungle is one of discussion. Rebel MC is often noted for having popularised the term, and in the book Energy Flash, MC Navigator is quoted as attributing the word to him.Others such as MC Five-O attribute it to MC Moose, whilst Rob Playford (of Moving Shadow) attributes it to MC Mad P (of Top Buzz). 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”
Drum And Bass
Drum and bass (also written as Drum&Bass or drum’n’bass and pronounced as one word and commonly abbreviated as D&B, DnB, or D’n’B) is a genre of electronic music characterised by fast breakbeats (typically 165-185 beats per minute) with heavy bass and sub-bass lines, sampled sources, and synthesizers. The music grew out of the UK’s jungle scene and subgenres such as darkcore in the 1990s.
The popularity of drum and bass at its commercial peak ran parallel to several other homegrown dance styles. A major influence was the original Jamaican dub and reggae sound that influenced jungle’s bass-heavy sound. Another feature of the style is the complex syncopation of the drum tracks’ breakbeat. Drum and bass subgenres include breakcore, ragga jungle, hardstep, darkstep, techstep, neurofunk, ambient drum and bass, liquid funk (a.k.a. liquid drum and bass), jump up, drumfunk, funkstep, sambass, and drill ‘n’ bass. Drum and bass has influenced many other genres like hip hop, big beat, dubstep, house, trip hop, ambient music, techno, jazz, rock and pop.
Drum and bass is dominated by a relatively small group of record labels. Major international music labels had shown very little interest in the drum and bass scene until BMG Rights Management acquired RAM in February 2016. Since then, the genre has seen a significant growth in exposure. The origin and home of drum and bass music is in the UK, with other prominent fanbases located in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United States, and South Africa. There’s also a modest following in countries like Austria, Russia, Estonia, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, and more.
Drum and bass began as a musical paradigm shift of the United Kingdom breakbeat hardcore and rave scene of the mid 1990s; and over the first decade and a half of its existence there have been many permutations in its style, incorporating elements from dancehall, electro, funk, hip hop, house, jazz, pop-created fusion of hardcore, house and techno (also including new beat). This scene existed briefly from approximately 1989-1993, a period of cross-pollination in the UK hardcore sound. This sound did survive in various forms in its mother countries – primarily Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany – beyond 1992, but by then the general scenes in these countries had moved forwards to trance, industrial techno or gabba (with happy hardcore/hard house being the equivalent ‘Belgian Techno’ – derivative sounds in the UK). London and Bristol are the two cities which are most associated with Drum and Bass.
Returning to the UK, drum and bass (as jungle) has its direct origins in the breakbeat hardcore part of the UK acid house rave scene. Hardcore DJs typically played their records at fast tempos, and breakbeat hardcore emphasised breakbeats over the 4-to-the-floor beat structure common to house music. Breakbeat hardcore records such as The Prodigy’s “Experience” (1992) Top Buzz’Jungle Techno!’ (1991), A Guy Called Gerald’s ‘Anything’ (1991), Shut Up and Dance’s “£10 to get in” / “£20 to get in” (both 1989), the Ragga Twins’ “Spliffhead” (1990) & ’18 Inch Speaker’ (1991), Rebel MC’s ‘Wickedest Sound’ (1990), ‘Coming On Strong’ (1990), ‘Tribal Bass’ (1991) & ‘African’ (1991) Nightmares on Wax’s ‘Aftermath’ & ‘In Two Minds’ (1990), Genaside II’s “Sirens of Acre Lane” (1990), DJ Dextrous’ “Ruffneck Biznizz” (1992), Noise Factory’s ‘Be Free’ (1992), Demon Boyz ‘Jungle Dett’ (1992) and LTJ Bukem’s “Demon’s Theme” (1992) are generally credited as being among the first to have a recognizable drum and bass sound.
Some hardcore tracks at the time were extremely light and upbeat; the most extreme examples of this were the so-called “toy-town” tracks such as Smart E’s’ “Sesame’s Treat” which features the children’s show “Sesame Street” theme song. A style of hardcore with light and upbeat sounds and a predominant kick drum, with less emphasis on breakbeats, would many years later be known as happy hardcore. These were particularly prominent in the summer of 1992 when hardcore crossed over commercially in the UK and its charts.
In response to these lighter tracks, some producers started focusing on darker, more aggressive sounds; this style became known as darkside hardcore, or Darkcore. Strange noises and effects, syncopated rhythms made from rearranged funk breaks and loud bass lines defined the genre. Examples of darkcore include Goldie’s “Terminator” (1992), Doc Scott’s “Here Come The Drumz”, and Top Buzz’s “Living In Darkness” (1992). These took their cue from the darker sounds of ‘Belgian Techno’, as found in tracks such as Beltram’s “Mentasm” and “Energy Flash” (1991), as well as the dark breaks of 4 Hero’s “Mr Kirks Nightmare” (1990) among others. These tracks were not widely called jungle or drum and bass by the mainstream media at their time of creation (although the terms “hardcore jungle” and “jungle techno” were in common use in the rave scene by then, with “drum & bass” appearing here and there on particular mixes of several vinyl releases), but they can nevertheless be found on later jungle and drum and bass compilations. The first major round-up of these tracks which was to use the term ‘drum & bass’ was probably “The Dark Side – Hardcore Drum & Bass Style”: a compilation on React Records, released March 1993, which featured both “Here Comes The Drumz” and “Terminator”.
This darker, more aggressive sound appealed to many in the dancehall and reggae communities. A shared emphasis on rhythm and bass, and the tempos were well suited to be mixed together. Soon many elements of dancehall reggae were being incorporated into the hardcore sound, and a precursor to what would become known as simply jungle was sometimes dubbed hardcore jungle. The Jamaican sound-system culture began to influence the emerging sound through the use of basslines and remixing techniques derived from dub and reggae music, alongside the fast breakbeats and samples derived from urban musics such as hip hop, funk, jazz, and r&b alongside many production techniques borrowed from early electronic music such as house, and techno.
As the yet unnamed genre evolved, the use of sampled funk breakbeats became increasingly complex. Most notable and widely spread is the Amen break taken from a b-side funk track “Amen, Brother” by the Winston Brothers (The Winstons). During this time producers began cutting apart loops and using the component drum sounds to create new rhythms. To match the complex drum lines, basslines which had less in common with the patterns of house and techno music than with the phrasings of dub and hip hop began to be used. As the beat-per-minute range rose above 165, the emerging drum and bass sound became incompatible for straightforward DJ mixing with house and techno, which typically range dozens of beats-per-minute less (making it impossible to play the tracks at the same speed on club equipment). This sonic identity became highly distinctive for both the depth of its bass and the increasingly complex, rapid-fire breakbeat percussion. Vastly different rhythmic patterns were distinctively being used, as well as new types of sampling, synthesis and effects processing techniques, resulting in a greater focus on the intricacies of sampling/synthesis production and rhythm. This notably included early use of the time stretching effect which was often used on percussion or vocal samples. As the influences of reggae and dub became more prominent, the sound of drum and bass began to take on an urban sound which was heavily influenced by ragga and dancehall music as well as hip hop, often incorporating the distinctive vocal styles of these musical genres. This reggae/dancehall influenced sound is most commonly associated with the term jungle.
Particular tracks from the 1992 – 1993 period that demonstrated some of the beat and sampling progression within drum and bass include: A Guy Called Gerald’s “28 Gun Bad Boy”, Bizzy B “Ecstacy is a Science” (1993) and Danny Breaks / Droppin Science “Droppin Science vol 1” (1993). This was an ongoing process however and can be demonstrated as a gradual progression over dozens of tracks in this period.
By late 1993, the drum and bass sound was particularly evident in the release “Unreleased Metal” (by Doc Scott and Goldie and which launched the Metalheadz label in 1994) and the “Internal Affairs EP” (by Goldie and 4hero.
Pioneers such as Bizzy B, Shy FX, Andy C, Krust, Peshay, DJ Hype, DJ SS, Fabio, Grooverider, Goldie, LTJ Bukem, Jack Smooth, Omni Trio, Rebel MC, Soul Slinger, DJ Special K (USA) Rob Playford and others quickly became stars of the genre. Most of the early producers and DJs still produce and play in today’s drum and bass scene, forming something of a jungle ‘old guard’ Some important early artists such as A Guy Called Gerald with his seminal early jungle LP (“Black Secret Technology”) and 4hero (“Mr Kirk’s Nightmare”) later developed their own styles, leaving the drum and bass mainstream.
These early pioneers heavily used Akai samplers and sequencers on the Atari ST to create their tracks. Without these electronic instruments, the first wave of consumer priced but versatile electronic instruments, it is doubtful drum and bass (or many electronic music styles) could have appeared.
Jungle to Drum And Bass
The phrase “drum and bass” was sometimes used in the seventies to name dub versions of reggae songs. With titles on b-sides of 7 inches, like ‘Drum and bass by King Tubby’s’. Also you can hear the phrase in reggae songs from artists like Jah Tomas with the often sampled phrase ‘strictly drum and bass make you wind up your waist’. Or in album titles, like ‘Show Case (In a Roots Radics Drum and Bass)’ from Tristan Palmer. The phrase “drum and bass” had also been used for years previously in the London soul and funk pirate radio scenes and was even a bit of a catchphrase for UK Radio 1 DJ Trevor Nelson in his pirate days, who used it to describe the deeper, rougher funk and “rare groove” sound that was popular in London at the time. A station ID jingle used on London pirate Kiss FM from the late 1980s would proclaim “drum and bass style on Kiss”.
However, as the early nineties saw drum and bass break out from its underground roots and begin to win popularity with the general British public, many producers attempted to expand the influences of the music beyond the domination of ragga-based sounds. By 1995, a counter movement to the ragga style was emerging.
Since the term jungle was so closely related to the ragga influenced sound, DJs and producers who did not incorporate reggae elements began to adopt the term “drum and bass” to differentiate themselves and their musical styles. This reflected a change in the musical style which incorporated increased drum break editing. Sometimes this was referred to as “intelligence”, though this later came to refer to the more relaxing style of drum and bass associated with producers such as LTJ Bukem. Perhaps the first track to explicitly use the term “drum and bass” to refer to itself was released in 1993. The producer The Invisible Man described it: “A well edited Amen Break alongside an 808 sub kick and some simple atmospherics just sounded so amazing all on its own, thus the speech sample “strictly drum and bass”.
A whole new world of possibilities was opening up for the drum programming… It wasn’t long before the amen break was being used by practically every producer within the scene, and as time progressed the Belgian style techno stabs and noises disappeared, and the edits and studio trickery got more and more complex. People were at last beginning to call the music Drum and Bass instead of hardcore. This Amen formula certainly helped cement the sound for many of the tracks I went on to produce for Gwange, Q-Project and Spinback on Legend Records. After a while, tracks using the Amen break virtually had a genre all of their own. Foul Play, Peshay, Bukem, DJ Dextrous and DJ Crystl among others were all solid amen addicts back then too.”
Towards late 1994 and especially in 1995 there was a definite distinction between the reggae and ragga sounding jungle and the tracks with heavily edited breaks, such as the artists Remarc, DJ Dextrous and The Dream Team on Suburban Base Records. Ironically, one compilation which brought the term to the wider awareness of those outside the scene, ‘Drum & Bass Selection vol 1’ (1994), featured a large amount of ragga influenced tracks, and the first big track to use the term in its title (Remarc’s ‘Drum & Bass Wize’, 1994) was also ragga-influenced.
The Dream Team consisted of Bizzy B and Pugwash; Bizzy B did however have a history of complex breakbreat tracks released before any real notion of a change in genre name. This also coincided with an increase of the use of the Reese bassline (Reese Project, Kevin Saunderson), as first featured on “Just Want Another Chance” by Kevin Saunderson (also famous for the group Inner City) released in 1988. Mid-1995 saw the coincidentally named Alex Reece’s “Pulp Fiction” which featured a distorted Reese bassline with a two-step break, slightly slower in tempo, which has been credited as an influence in the new tech-step style which would emerge from Emotif and No U-Turn Records.
“Pulp Fiction was (and still is) a seriously badass tune, it was highly original at the time, and of course it will remain in the classic oldskool bag for many years to come. It was also the track that spawned hundreds of imitators of its “2-Step” style which unfortunately also lasted for many years to come…. hmmm… oh, and because the 2-step groove generally sounds slower, DnB then began to speed up way beyond 160bpm… say no more.”
This has also led to the confusion of equating the “tech-step” subgenre with drum and bass, as distinct from jungle, but “drum and bass” as a style and as a name for the whole genre already existed in 1995 before the release of DJ Trace’s remix of T-Power’s “Mutant Jazz” which appeared on S.O.U.R. Recordings in 1995 (co-produced by Ed Rush and Nico). Also note that DJ Trace, Ed Rush and Nico already had a history of producing jungle/drum & bass and hardcore in a variety of styles.
The media may have also emphasised a difference in styles. This was especially the case in the subgenre dubbed “intelligent” drum and bass by the music press, and its ambassador was LTJ Bukem and his Good Looking label alongside Moving Shadow artists such as Foul Play, Omni Trio and Cloud 9.
Some say that the move to drum and bass was a conscious and concerted reaction by top DJs and producers against a culture that was becoming tinged with gangster types and violent elements, and stereotyped with the recognizable production techniques of ragga-influenced producers. The release of General Levy’s “Incredible” record in 1994 is taken by many as being the key-point in the transformation. This ragga influenced track contains a statement by General Levy claiming to be the “original junglist” at a time in which he was proclaiming publicly that “I run jungle” which in turn angered the most powerful and influential drum and bass producers, resulting in a blacklisting of General Levy and possibly a conscious step away from the ragga sound.
“The whole tag jungle took on a real sinister… It just got so smashed in the press. We were like: “If we’re going to carry on we’re gonna have to change the name here, cos we’re getting slaughtered here.” – Fabio.
Intelligent drum and bass maintained the uptempo breakbeat percussion, but focused on more atmospheric sounds and warm, deep basslines over vocals or samples which often originated from soul and jazz music. However, alongside other key producers in the scene, LTJ Bukem, arguably the single most influential figure behind the style, is especially noted for disliking the term, owing to the implication that other forms of drum and bass are not intelligent. From this period on, drum and bass would maintain the unity of a relatively small musical culture, but one characterised by a competing group of stylistic influences. Although many DJs have specialised in distinctive subgenres within jungle and drum and bass, the majority of artists within the genre were and remain connected via record labels, events and radio shows. It is extremely important to note that many producers make tracks in more than one subgenre of drum and bass.
Around 1995-1996 there was a general splintering of the drum and bass scene. Subgenres could be referred to by their names as opposed to either jungle or drum and bass, though all subgenres were usually grouped by the new umbrella term drum and bass. This continues today. Roni Size, Krust and Dj Die might be considered the people that made Drum and Bass more mainstream.
Confusion is increased by the term jump-up which initially referred to tracks which had a change in style at the drop, encouraging people to dance. Initially these would usually be breakbeat-heavy drops in this new drum and bass style, but producers of around the same time were creating tracks with hip-hop style basslines at the drop. This would become a new subgenre “jump-up”, though many of the early jump-up tracks included edited amens at the drop. Influential artists include DJ Zinc, DJ Hype, Dillinja and Aphrodite amongst many others. The Dream Team would also produce jump-up tracks, usually under the name Dynamic Duo on Joker Records, in a style with similarities and differences to their Suburban Base releases. Notice also the early use of the term “jump up jungle” rather than “jump up drum and bass”. The pigeon-holes for genres changed so quickly that jump-up was quickly also called drum and bass even as a subgenre.
Around this time, drum and bass also sealed its popularity by winning a Friday night slot on Radio One, the BBC’s flagship radio station, the legendary “One in the jungle” show. Initially presented by a revolving groups of jungle luminaries, hosted by MC Navigator, the station eventually secured the presenting services of Fabio and Grooverider, two of the oldest and most-respected DJs in the scene. Many DJs made a sudden shift from pirate radio to legal radio at this time.
Up to this point, pirate radio was the only radio source of jungle music and in particular Kool FM, and Don FM’s contribution to the development of this sound should not be overlooked or denied. It is doubtful whether jungle would have gained popularity without pirate radio stations. The transition in name from “jungle” to “drum and bass” occurs at the same time as its legal appearance on airwaves.
Another aspect to note in the evolution of drum and bass is that the advent of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 specifically aimed at stopping illegal raves prompted the move of jungle (and other electronic music genres) into legal (mostly) nightclubs.
Jungle vs. Drum and Bass
Nowadays the difference between jungle (or oldschool jungle) and drum and bass is a common debate within the junglist community. There is no universally accepted semantic distinction between the terms “jungle” and “drum and bass”. Some associate “jungle” with older material from the first half of the 1990s (sometimes referred to as “jungle techno”), and see drum and bass as essentially succeeding jungle. Others use jungle as a shorthand for ragga jungle, a specific subgenre within the broader realm of drum and bass. Probably the widest held viewpoint within the scene in London is that the terms are simply synonymous and interchangeable: drum and bass is jungle, and jungle is drum and bass.