When I got asked to write a piece on the history of jungle I started sweating immediatly cause first I am in no way a journalist/writer, just a lover of the music and second the history of jungle is all over the place! I heard and read so many different stories over the years so it's hard to find the exact story. So I claim in no way that this is the truth it's more a collection of the info I heard/collected,quoted, edited, chopped, cut and pasted..
My introduction to jungle happend gradually. I started "djing" electronic music around 1991/2, it was mainly rave music in all it's glorious forms. My favourite records were always the ones with breakbeats. Luckily the local record shop "FIX" in Middelburg sold imports from all over the world and so me and my mates came across records like Shag 'n' Skoob's Skooby Chewnz Vol. 1, Little Matt & Uprock's Techno Travellers and ofcourse releases by labels like XL, Suburban Base, Network.
In the Netherlands as far as I know there were no breakbeat hardcore only dj's back in the days, it got played but mainly mixed with other styles of rave music. Sometimes if I got lucky the dj's on radioshows like "for those who like to groove" played tracks from Noize Factory, Acen, etc. Also in the gabber scene there were some dj's & producers that mixed the UK records with the gabber sound. Producers wise there quite a few gabber records that had elements from breakbeat hardcore (usually sampled from UK records..) or breakbeat tracks on the B-sides. Like for instance:
Some mainly gabber orientated events also had a seperate room/area for jungle like the 1994 edition of Mysteryland (organised by ID&T)
When it comes to actual jungle in the Netherlands it was mainly the pioneering work of Dreazz and Nubian whom together with Harsh & Fusion created the jungle fanzine "Wicked Hardcore". Dreazz and Nubian also started importing records from the UK and organized parties. When it became more populair over here even 2 Unlimited's Ray Slijngaard released a jungle compilation on his "Raymar Productions" filled with tracks made by Eurohouse producers...
I kept interested in this music and grew along with it through all it's offshoots & mutations from breakbeat hardcore to jungle to drum & bass to digital hardcore and breakcore.
The roots don’t stay in one place. They change shape. They change colour. And they grow. There is no such thing as a pure point of origin, least of all in something as slippery as music, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t history.
[Dick Hebdige, Cut’n’Mix: Culture, Identity and Caribbean Music 1987, p 10.]
For some the story starts with people like Frankie Bones, Lenny Dee and labels like Nu-Groove because of their use of breakbeats in their productions and the influence of their sets in the UK. Frankie bones comments on Success-N-Effect's Roll It Up (Bass Kickin Beats) discogs entry.
For the first 6 months of my arrival to the U.K. back in the later months of 1989, this was my most treasured track, the one people would remember me for. The vocal "Let The Bass Kick" followed by The Winstons "Amen Brother" breakbeat with a sub 808 that was deadly. Felix Sama's edit work was effective on this chopping Big Daddy Kane's Vocal "Let It Roll" (made popular by Doug Lazy) into little bits before crashing into that 808/breakbeat again. Carl Cox would get his copy from Lenny Dee in Feb. 1990 and went and did a white label remix which would result in his ink with Perfecto Records for "I Want U (Forever). After that it became the template for the young U.K. youth who began to experiment in the studio. The end result being Jungle and Drum & Bass. This record was the prototype.
Late 80s - early 90s the UK rave scene was huge. from warehouse parties to illegal raves in fields, mixing styles like Detroit techno, Chicago house, Belgian rave and Bleep. Soon it embraced the use of breakbeats sped up hiphop,funk,soul breaks and mixed it with influences from Belgian rave, bleep, electro, hiphop and reggae/dancehall to form a monster hybrid called breakbeat hardcore.
Paul Ibiza mentions in his interview on Uncle Dugs Rinse FM show (07-10-2011) that for him it started as a reaction to the Belgian imports that were the most played/sold records and to cut out the foreign distributors and to change the music, they created their own.
Hardcore is a London and surrounding counties based offshoot of Techno that’s defined by sped-up, looped breakbeats as opposed to the programmed rhythms of Trance and House. Always more multiracial than other post-Rave scenes, Hardcore got “blacker” as hiphop, Ragga, dub and Soul influences kicked in, and by 93 it had evolved into Jungle. By this point, Hardcore/Jungle (the terms remain interchangeable) was universally scorned by dance hipsters and banished from the media. But the scene thrived thanks to a self-sufficient network of small labels, specialist record shops, pirate radio stations and clubs.
[Simon Reynolds The Wire #127 September 1994.]
People like Shut Up And Dance, Lennie De Ice, A Guy Called Gerald, Paul Ibiza, Rebel MC etc where pioneering with heavy reggae/dub/dancehall influenced basslines and samples combined with hardcore breakbeats and overall heavy street vibes. Rebel MC is noted many times as one of the 1st one to combine reggae culture with music styles of the times like hiphop, electro and house. This was late 80s with his Beat Freak Soundsystem.
Some proto jungle tracks.
Shut up And Dance - £10 (to get in), £20 to get in 
The Ragga Twins - Spliffhead 
Rebel MC - The Wickedest Sound, Comin' On Strong, tribal base 
Lennie De Ice - We Are E  (often credited as THE first jungle track due to the use of amen breaks, heavy bassline and rewinds and gunshots)
Meat Beat Manifesto - Radio Babylon 
SL2 Way in my Brain 
U.S.I - Revolution 
A Guy Called Gerald - Anything 
Underkut - Both Ends 
Low Noise Block - Rave In The Bedroom 
LTJ Bukem - Demon's Theme 
Another breakbeat fueled scene that can't be unmentioned as an influence and truly proto hardcore is the UK hiphop (Britcore) sound from late 80s & early 90s. This style was overall much faster than the US sound and filled with hardcore breakbeats and in some exemples also took influences from genres like ragga, reggae mixed to a super energetic unique sound.
Some artists from this scene later started making hardcore, jungle. Like MC Duke (As E.K.U.D.C.M., Double H Productions, e.kude)
Not surprisingly, a lot of the artists migrated to rave, which was a lot more welcoming and progressive compared to hip-hop. The music was still breakbeat-orientated and of a fast tempo, so Britcore could easily cross-pollinate into rave.
[Mark McDonald in The UK's Forgotten Rap Scene Deserves Your Attention on vice.com]
London Posse – Money Mad 
MC Duke – I'm Riffin' (English Rasta) 
Silver Bullet - 20 Seconds To Comply 
Hijack – The Badman Is Robbin' 
The Criminal Minds - Urban Warfare 
Hardnoise – Untitled 
Gunshot – Battle Creek Brawl 
Dominant Force - Taking Over Ragga Hip Hop 
First Frontal Assault – Atomic Airaid 
Demon Boyz – Dett 
The name Jungle music first popped up within musical circles during Ellington’s famous residency at the Cotton Club from 1927–1931. The growling sound of both his trumpet and Joe Nanton's trombone lent the band's sound its "savage" appeal. Coupled with [Sonny Greer]'s primordial drumming, they evoked the African jungle, and therefore was advertised as "jungle music.
(Piero Scaruffi - Duke Ellington 1999)
Within reggae culture. References to 'jungle', 'junglists' and 'jungle music' can be found throughout dub, reggae and dancehall genres to describe inhabitants of the Tivoli & Arnett Gardens area of Kingston Jamaica and (aka Concrete jungle)
Concrete Jungle is a housing project. Its official name is Arnett Gardens, but everyone who lives there—and everyone who's afraid to go there—knows it better by its more evocative nickname, which is often shortened simply to "Jungle." Concrete Jungle was constructed in the early 1970s, a modern government housing scheme built on the edges of West Kingston's Trench Town shantytown ghetto. It's stood at the center of many of the worst problems plaguing Jamaican society ever since.
The people from that area got shout outs in clashes/dances recordings of these went around as clash/yard tapes and got picked up in the UK.
Jamaican MCs have been talking about ‘junglists’ from an estate nicknamed ‘The Jungle’ in Trenchtown for years, though legend has it that the UK adopted the name after Rebel MC sampled a dancehall track that chatted, “Rebel got this chant / Alla the junglists.
(Shut up and dance in Hackney Soldiers interview on Clashmusic.com)
As a reaction to toytown rave (chart rave tunes that most of the times consisted on samples from childrens television), the popularity of happy hardcore, combined with the ecstasy comedown, shady raves, a country in crisis, raves got criminalised (by the criminal justice and public order act),mass unemployment a new direction within hardcore emerged around 1992/1993: Darkcore. A sub genre that was a big influence on things to come.
Dark came with the feeling of breakdown in society. It was winter clubs were closing the country was in decline. As an artist I had to reflect on it.
[Goldie in State of the bass]
This was a time when video libraries offered endless possibilities for sampling. Discordant strings and haunting refrains would be lifted from horror films, dislocated ambience appropriated from science fiction movies. Occasionally phrases were lifted whole and placed in a track for added poignance, creating a filmesque chemical comedown.
[martin James in State of Bass page 22]
The dark and moody sounds had some negative influences on the the scene. It split the scene the darkness was not for everybody. The atmosphere at raves became rougher, more violent, other types of drugs (like crack)
I watched the dark sound bring crack into rave and that's a fact which certain people are running away from. Dark brought crack into the raves, it's then when things went moody.
Now you could ask whether music has that much effect on people; well yes evidently it does.
Hiphop gun culture has brought a whole new generation of b-boys who bought into the major label perspective of what hiphop is about and it's created a violent generation of b-boys. The same thing has happened over here with the rave scene. Whether that has got something to do with the whole idea of people waking up at the end of this great dream of the "second summer of love"1n 1989 and going 'hang on a minute, the country is actually fucked' or whether it was simply the music; well the music obviously helps it along.
[Marc Royal aka T.Power State of the bass page 27]
Rotating Heads - Dark Secrets
Bizzy B & Equinox - 7 Minutes Of Madness
Mega City 2 - Demons By Daylight e.p
Dexxtrous - Somethin' Out There
Pascal & Sponge – Nosebleed EP
Chaos & Julia Set - Fear The Future
4 Horsemen Of The Apocalypse – Drowning In Her
Metal Heads - Terminator
Doc Scott - Here Comes The Drumz
Area 39 – Clint
Remarc & Lewi Cifer - Cape Fear
It's a blend of reggae basslines, it's a bass thing really. That's the difference between jungle and techno, techno is kinda like high frequencies, jungle is low frequencies like really heavy bass. Exaggerated bass.And the thing that makes it different from alot of other music is the speed it's just a lot faster.
[Fabio BBC All Black Jungle Fever documentary 1994]
As someone with a life-long addiction to reggae, jungle was bound to get to me. The basslines, the dubbyness of it, the reality vibe and the drum programming. It's heavy, but Iám a bit old to rave to it.What I mean is that as a phenomenon I am very interested. For a start Jungle makes a celebration of it's 'dark vibes', it reminds me of punk, it's music for the badboys, rebel music. Second it is so London. It's evolved slowly and naturally, away from the media spotlight in North and East London. I also like the way it is unspokenly multi racial, when the dj says all the bad men put up your lighters there are just as many white blokes and Asians as there are black. I love the fact that although the music may reflect reggae and Hip-hop, as popular music it's fucked them over , because it's not imported, it has much more relevance to its audience than they ever can.Forget about pretending to be a South Bronx mutha, or a Kingston bad man, You can be a London junglist.
[James style, Rumble in the jungle, Touch magazine issue 42 November 1994]
Ragga Jungle is highly significant, as the musical expression of an emergent black-and-white underclass in Britain. It’s this nation’s equivalent to gangsta rap; the rasping insolence of the patois booyacka chants, the ruff beats and stabbing sub-bass, embody a ghettocentric survivalist toughness.
[Simon Reynolds Above The Treeline" Wire #127 September 1994.]
It was almost inevitable that the combination of the 160 bpm breaks of hardcore and the 80 bpm bass lines of reggae would eventually bring people to the ragga vocal.The two styles seemed to complement each other completely and, unlike most vocal samples, the ragga vocal was already pitched at the right tempo. However , the earliest records to filter through containing ragga vocals were simply cases of straight sampling rather than employing live mcs.
[Martin James State of the bass page 34]
Ragga jungle was probably the most populair style within the genre. With tunes like M-beat - Incredible and Shy-FX - Original Nuttah even getting into the British charts. For some artists the whole Popularization of the style led to people distancing themselves from it.
The ragga-jungle takeover was apart from the originals very much a case of outsiders jumping on board and stealing their sound. Producers like [Rob Playford] looked down their noses at the scene declaring much of it to be devoid of any real creative talent. To him they were using a sound which he and his contemporaries had already dropped as far back as 1992. "personally after doing the "ragga-jungle thing" sighs playford. There were all of these people taking really obvious elements and sticking something even more obvious over it to try and make a pop record The sound they were trying to copy was something very close to our hearts, very deep underground and it just pissed eveybody off. I just felt like I had to get out at that point.
[Martin James State of the bass page 37]
People think it was about Reggae - it was a massive part of it, but it wasn't all of it - it was made up of cultures; jazz, blues, punk, reggae, soul and hip hop, all genres that were supressed in the beginning, we took 'em at their base levels, we took our favourite bits of all them things, and we made a terminator. We made something that was gonna out last a lot of things. That's why it was resilient man. It's the ultimate cockroach ever. You can't stamp this fucker out. It's super strong mate. That's why I love this music.
[Goldie ID magazine goldie’s golden years of jungle and d&b 07-14-2015]
Ninjaman - Jungle Move [Remarc Remix]
Shy FX & Gunsmoke - Gangsta Kid
Chatta B - Bad Man Tune
Dread & The Baldhead - Wicked Piece a Tune
Rude & Deadly - Mash dem down
Leviticus - Burial
Marvellous Caine - The Hitman
Cutty Ranks - Limb By Limb (DJ SS Remix)
One of the key ingredients of jungle are ofcourse the sped up and edited drum breaks/breakbeats. One of the most used is the Amen Break. The Amen Break is the drum break on a B-side recording of the Grammy-winning 1969 R&B hit “Color Him Father.” from DC-based soul group the Winstons. Having run out of material, the Winstons decided to record an instrumental of gospel standard “Amen, Brother”
The break first got used in hiphop.
Amen, Brother” lay dormant for almost two decades. But in 1986, as the nascent hip-hop scene in New York was entering the musical mainstream, the song cropped up on the first volume of “Ultimate Breaks and Beats”, a compilation of tracks with “clean”, drums-only segments. DJs and producers using turntables had long used breaks from old funk tracks as backing material for rappers; the compilation made their lives easier. Combined with the sampler, a new piece of digital hardware that recorded snippets of sound for deployment in other contexts, it allowed producers to create extended loops over which rappers could perform.
[Seven seconds of fire Economist Dec 17th 2011]
Salt 'N Pepa - I Desire 
2 Live Crew - Feel Alright Y'all 
Mantronix - King Of The Beats 
N.W.A - Straight Outta Compton 
Nice & Smooth - Dope not hype 
It's probably these records & the “Ultimate Breaks and Beats" that transported the break to the UK and as mentioned above according to Frankie Bones Success-N-Effect's Roll It Up (Bass Kickin Beats) introduced it to the British rave scene.
From there on the break started leading it's own life and spread like a wildfire. Being used in so many rave, hardcore and later in jungle. Within jungle the cutting, editing & processing of the break where taking to the next level.
Like a virus, once the Amen break had taken hold among jungle producers it began to propagate, and to mutate. It was used on hundreds, possibly thousands of records (some claim that “Amen, Brother” is the most sampled track in the history of music). For a time anyone trying to build a name in the scene had to turn their hand to Amen. “The musicians chose to limit themselves in order to express creativity within boundaries,
Why was Amen so popular? One answer is that it fulfilled a need: easy to sample and manipulate, it offered producers a straightforward way into jungle. Many amateur producers have been surprised to discover how easy it is to make the junglist equivalent of instant noodles by sampling, looping and speeding up the break. Eventually Amen acquired critical mass; producers used it because everyone else did.
But Amen also has certain sonic qualities that set it aside from its rivals. Rather than keeping time with a hi-hat, Coleman uses the loose sound of the ride cymbal, filling out the aural space. And the recording has a “crunch” to it, says Tom Skinner, a London-based session drummer: “That quality is appealing to beatmakers.” The pitched tone of the snare drum is particularly distinctive; as any junglist will tell you, a snare can be as evocative as a smell.
[Seven seconds of fire Economist Dec 17th 2011]
The break is being used in everything from commercials to tv themes and even Oasis used it in their song "D’You Know What I Mean?"
Nobody in the Winstons ever got any royalties. Drummer Gregory C. Coleman developed a drug addiction and died homeless and destitute on the streets of Atlanta in 2006.
In 2015 British DJs Martyn Webster and Steve Theobald set up an internet campaign to raise money for Richard L Spencer (lead singer of [The Winstons]) who owns the copyright for Amen, Brother.
They didn't have to do that - I didn't even know them. Fifty years on, some young white boys that I've never met, halfway across the world said, 'We're going to give you a gift.' It's probably one of the sweetest things that's happened to me in a long time.
[Richard L Spencer, Six seconds that shaped 1,500 songs BBC news.]
Sources and Must reads/see
- Dick Hebdige, Cut’n’Mix: Culture, Identity and Caribbean Music ISBN: 0415058759
- Martin James - State of Bass: Jungle : The Story So Far ISBN: 0752223232
- BBC all black jungle fever documentary 1994 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pboSETUoSko
- Touch magazine issue 42 November 1994
- Seven seconds of fire - http://www.economist.com/node/21541707
- Six seconds that shaped 1,500 songs http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-32087287
- BBC 1Xtra History of the Amen Break https://vimeo.com/51332683
- The Face issue no 71 August 1994
- Mixmag vol. 2 issue no. 38 July 1994
- DJ no. 129 8-21 December 1994
- The Mix Volume 1 Issue 10 April 1995
- NME 2 July 1994
- A London Somet'ing Dis 1993 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCRlb3kxYOI
- Simon Reynolds - Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture ISBN: 0330350560
Writer by Tommy De Roos