First, at the risk of insulting your intelligence, I'll give you a little background. Jungle is a form of dance music interchangeably known as drum 'n' bass. My guess is that drum 'n' bass came into favor as the name of said genre when people started realizing that "jungle" had racist implications (jazz, the first largely black-dominated genre, was originally dismissed by honkies as "jungle music"). In any case, junglism refers to those who live, breathe, think -- and most of all, hear -- nothing but drum 'n' bass. Sure, the most extreme of junglists would argue with me on this point (some say drum 'n' bass is a form of jungle and vice versa), but in the interest of simplicity, we'll leave it at that.
Jungle, like most of dance music's subgenres, wasn't born in a vacuum. Its influences span the gamut: reggae, jazz, hiphop, and happy hardcore. Most attribute its roots to the largely black port town of Bristol, England. And, since it was born of frustration and its founders were, for the most part, black, jungle's often deemed as the U.K.'s answer to hiphop. Again, this is probably an oversimplification, but that's the purpose of this lesson -- to make something rather complicated a bit more understandable. If you want to fight about semantics, fine. Do it on your own time.
Due to its abrasive, cacophonous, dissonant sound, jungle has always been regarded as the aural archenemy of feel-good house. And I'll tell you, when most people first make the acquaintance of jungle, they don't like what they hear. Many dismiss it after one listen. Their reason? "I just can't dance to it." Fair enough, considering it's supposed to be dance music. Likewise, many DJs shied away from drum 'n' bass when it first came on the scene several years ago; those who didn't were ostracized by their fans and peers for daring to delve into this redheaded stepchild of dance music.
But look at them now.
Somehow, jungle became the flavor of the month that just won't die. Why, you ask? Because it is, arguably, more complex than its siblings, house and techno. These two genres rely on the unbreaking thump-thump-thump of the 4/4 beat. Contrary to popular belief, jungle often shares that most danceable of time signatures. The difference, though, is that jungle is a form of breakbeat, which means, quite literally, that there is a break in the thumping rhythm. Breaks are often preceded by a build, which generates a very excited, anticipatory feeling. Simply put, it's a sonic tool used to demand attention. That's why jungle is the least culpable of that sin dance music is often decried for: monotony.
Lovers of dance music have long sought to impose a higher purpose on their inherently hedonistic style. Jungle, since it is such a departure from the rest of the genre, shows potential for really making a mark on the world. So what if that mark is merely on the face of popular music. That's more than can be said for polka.
Don't be surprised if you start hearing a heckuva lot more from the junglist camp. It's already showing signs of dethroning house as the club favorite, and drum 'n' bass is slowly but surely making headway into the mainstream. It's the most interesting thing to happen since grunge (which, as you know, wasn't all that interesting, anyway), and as the mediocrity dominating the charts will attest, pop is just begging for something new.
You need only look to the current R&B and hiphop hits for proof. Timbaland (the hardest-working producer in the biz these days) and his signature stuttered beats are not a far cry from the frenetic, noodling beats indigenous to jungle. A more concrete example of jungle's crossover into mainstream pop is the recent single from the Roots & Erykah Badu, "You Got Me." The beats on that bad boy were unequivocally jungly in nature.
So, there you have it. You may not be convinced that jungle's going to change the world, but surely you'll agree that it makes for good dinner-party conversation.
5 JUNGLE SONGS EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT
1. Goldie, Inner City Life (Metalheadz). While the vocals make many a junglist cringe nowadays, it was a breakthrough in its day.
2. Nasty Habits (a.k.a. Doc Scott), Shadowboxing (31). One of the first drum 'n' bass tracks to spearhead the dark, brooding sound so popular with the kids right now.
3. Natural Born Killers, Rock the Funky Beats (Urban Takeover). With a Public Enemy sample and an irresistible bassline, this jump-up classic served to convert many naysayers to the junglist cause.
4. LTJ Bukem, Horizons (Good Looking). Bukem is the most well-known purveyor of the "pretty drum 'n' bass" that fell out of favor, but is about due for a comeback.
5. Dillinja, XXXX (Test Recordings). This is the original "porn step" song. (See "Techno 101," issue 8•29)