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Jungle Music - An introduction that's not "Welcome to the jungle"- 1
Question: Bears, beets, Battlestar Galactica
Do you work a computer job?
Do you have to listen to the same pop music over and over again from your co-worker or social expectation?
Do you live in the United States and believe that the dumbing down of popular music and culture is contributing to the current decline of the United States?
Do you lack motivation in your job or exercise?
Are you a fan of science fiction and/or anime movies/television programs?
Have you tried listening to jungle music at times at work when you don't have to concentrate thinking so much?
Way out in the jungle...
In this hub, I will give a short introduction to an awesome genre of motivating music which I will refer to as “jungle music” throughout. Today, it has splintered and may be called many things, most notably “drum and bass”. Wikipedia has close to 20 synonyms for it. I feel that these terms serve to pollute and confuse people early on so I will refer to the genre as jungle.
I would say that a short description to start would be: electronic dance music made of small samples or clips of non-electronic (sounding) music, without many vocals. The DJ/producer layers these different samples of different drum beats, different strings and horns, different vocal phrases and deep bass on top of each other in loops, and then speeds it up. It turns out to be quietly energizing for me without being brash and tiring.
Roots, rock reggae; this is Jamaican music
The original idea of this genre (as most genres!) comes from Jamaica. The people were poor, but wanted to have fun with music (after a hard day of slavery). One person brought a jazz record, one person brought a rock-and-roll record, one person brought a r&b record. The DJ would play them all at the same time poetically, in loops over and over, while a toaster would “toast” the crowd to the beat of the music and the people would dance to it.
Thus, ska was born.
Thus, reggae was born afterwards.
When Jamaica suffered a great economic crisis, the people moved to New York City and continued this tradition.
Thus, hip-hop/rap was born.
The plain beats of r&b and motown and same ol' rap beats were getting a little boring for some people. So, they searched out a drum break (drum fill/solo) from r&b legend James Brown's song “The Funky Drummer”. They played just that crazy drum break in a loop over and over while speeding it up for excitement, often throwing more and more drum accents over top for an excited feeling. They would stop the loop at random or syncopated times, for a “break beat”. Now that the beat felt twice as fast and crazy, they would play short clips of horns from James Brown or other instruments at normal speed over top along with slow moving throbbing bass lines, normalizing the jungle sound of today.
Some early producers and fans of this, unhappy with the glitz and glamour of a Hollywood-ized African-American music form of rap, rave or disco, started calling their form “jungle”. I've heard it said that the music began originally in the jungle (literal), and now it was being realized in the “urban jungle” of London. Other producers and fans of this wanted to distance themselves from the violent or criminal past or motives of these junglists and their concrete jungle music, so they started calling it a vast number of different terms. The two most prominent characteristics of the music are drums and bass, so I guess that's where the genre term “drum and bass” came from. In the late 90's, the genre started taking its own form and really began to define itself in the 2000s.
Characteristics of the genre
Electronic, or no?
It is made electronically, but the sound is not overtly techno. You will hear soothing female vocals, flutes, pianos, lush strings, and many jazz elements in jungle because it is supposedly a sampled, layered, or recycled music form.
The mix factor
Jungle started out as a live event of continuous music, in which there was a continuous beat and pieces of other songs or other beats were mixed in, and still today that is where jungle lives. Jungle musicians or producers play mix sets live first, and then release singles or albums if they are popular. I have attended a few and they are magical to watch the DJ work. Practically, if you are looking to listen to real jungle music, try to seek out a mix tape, mix album, live mix set, etc... I believe this is one of the strength's of the genre, rather than trying to find a hit song.
Today's jungle artists often sneak in samples that pay homage to the original artists of the genre, so it is fun to listen to and try to find these for me. Some artists I've recognized do this are Utah Jazz and DJ Shadow.
It is hard to achieve any kind of success today creating instrumental music, which is not focused on the lead vocalist. I enjoy singers, but I do appreciate hearing the other musicians as well. I cannot focus on writing (for my job) myself when listening to a loud singer often-times, so I like listening to jungle at times when working.
Fast dance music...
If you are trying to get in shape, the fast speed of jungle music is a great pace-setter to run, jump-rope, or exercise to. I do and it is a great tool to use.
Part two: artists
In part two of this hub, I will go over some of my favourite jungle artists/albums, and some of the most influential. I will also share some benefits of listening to the music!
Answers for dummies who comment before they read the hub:
1) Isn't iT DUBSTEP!!!!
- no. Dubstep is slow and more electronic sounding.
2) I don't like techno
- then don't listen to it
3) what does all this stuff about history have to do with the present or future?
- jungle = repeating loops. history = repeating trends.
Thanks for reading and stick around for part two!