Before joining our first residency night on the 15th of October at Control Club, you should get familiar with jungle music if you aren’t already. As you have probably heard, our first guests are representing the 16years old club night series and musical label, Rupture. Head honchos Dj Mantra and Double O are joined by Blackeye MC, with local support from myself and radio colleague Fane.

Join the event here!


The first thing you should know is: jungle is massive. It is defined by fast cuts, carefully arranged breaks, sharp percussion, and occasional piercing vocals. These blend perfectly with the genre’s deep yet soulful basslines and emotional harmonies, creating a unique mix of sounds, influences, and cultures. Thus, it is no surprise that this movement has given birth to some of underground music’s most listened to and appreciated genres while humbly staying in the shadows. However, how it got there is one of the societal shifts, worldwide connections, and endless creativity and passion.

During the developmental period following the Second World War, Caribbean people were heavily encouraged to immigrate to the United Kingdom. They brought their families and traditions to Britain and slowly started infusing their culture into the communities they became a part of. This included food, clothing, language, and last but not least – music. Jamaican sound systems, which represented a gathering site, an occasion for social mixing, and a way for communities to compete, were now blasting whatever new rhythm was hot – from ska to reggae or two-tone. And they were doing so proudly.

Across the Atlantic, R&B, funk, and soul were picking up in popularity. In the ’70s, DJs experimenting with the sound discovered that the drum solos were most impactful in getting a crowd to move. As such, they started to isolate and arrange these percussive segments, giving birth to new styles and genres, the most notable ones being hip-hop and breakbeat. It’s likely for the Apache, Think break, or Funky Drummer to sound familiar to most people. However, the Amen Break is arguably the most infamous and recognizable 6-second-long sample of all time. Its influence is difficult to overstate, having been used in thousands of songs and giving birth to multiple musical subcultures.

By the early ’90s, the Jamaican sound system environment of music-oriented togetherness had grown, developed, and morphed, influencing the UK rave scene. Large, loud, and diverse parties were held in warehouses and fields to express freedom, joy, and rebellion. Breaks had also made their way into these places, becoming defining characteristics of the genres played at these events. Hardcore breakbeats were the first choice of music being played, representing a continuation of acid house.

It was around 1992 when producers started exhibiting their Caribbean heritage in their music, that jungle was born. Heavy dub and reggae basslines doubled in tempo and started being overlayed on elaborate break chops and arrangements, with masters of ceremony providing vocal accompaniment. The music was primarily made using samples - pre-recorded loops of breaks, older tracks, vocal chops, or effects – while the name “jungle” was chosen as a representation of the hectic, raw atmosphere that emanated from the rapid genre. The sounds were hypnotizing, and they managed to get people together, irrespective of age, gender, or race.

However, it became apparent from the get-go that it wouldn’t all be smooth sailing for jungle music. The mainstream was never going to embrace rave culture, and it was challenging for jungle music to break through due to its black heritage in a time of overt racial tensions. In addition, allegations of inciting violence were constantly being made, referring to the genre. The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act represented an official governmental attempt to shut the scene down. Nevertheless, jungle music managed to shine through, as with most things of value. 

Photo by Eddie Otchere

While licensed radio stations would refuse to play any underground music, illegal radios were more than happy to do so. Unlicensed stations, which had started streaming from onboard ships off the coast of Britain, hence their branding of pirate radios, moved to city council estates. Here, they started focusing on independent, community-made music. As such, pirate radios and jungle music became a match made in heaven, garnering thousands of listeners every day. MCs joined the broadcasters in their run from rooftop to rooftop, acting as promoters, advertisers, and overall pushers of the scene while narrowly escaping the police. Their flow, which also derived from Caribbean culture, merged perfectly with the music and added an extra layer of uniqueness to each show. At the same time, record stores became networking hubs where producers, MCs, DJs, and admirers of the scene all came together to mingle and discover new releases.

By the second half of the ’90s, everyone was either making or listening to jungle music, leading to the sound losing a bit of its essence. At the same time, the party drug of choice switched from ecstasy to cocaine, and the atmosphere of the events consequently started to change. Wanting to distance themselves from this environment, producers began to tweak the formula further, removing the ragga and reggae influences from their tunes but keeping the amen breaks and heavy basslines. Thus, drum and bass was born, rapidly branching into popularity and taking over parties. While DnB remains relatively mainstream today, its predecessor, jungle, fell back into its underground lair. Here, it lives and breathes just as it did before, although it now attracts a smaller yet more concentrated audience. Those who still identify as junglists do so out of honesty and genuine passion for the sound and have managed to keep jungle music fresh for the past two decades.

Picture taken at Voodoo Magic, The Empire, London, 1995

From the catchy anthems of Shy FX to the intricate and dark works of Aphrodite, from the mainstream hits of General Levy to the slightly lesser known yet highly appreciated tunes of DJ Zinc, jungle music has taken up space and made its presence felt. It has, in time, given birth to popular genres which have attracted large audiences, and yet it has continued to evolve and remain unique. Despite not spending too much time in the limelight in the 30 years since its conception, jungle music still manages to hold a passionate community of producers, DJs, events, labels, and an overall pedigree that is certain to live for a long time to come.