Jungle is the word on every record company executive's lips. 'It's like the new punk', Jules, director of junglist label Sour, explains. But while punk was largely the invention of Malcolm McLaren, jungle has evolved naturally.
A phenomenon that grew out of acid house has been allowed to mature in the dark, out of the media spotlight, on the back streets of North London, in unfashionable areas like Dalston, Tottenham and Hackney.
The Notting Hill Carnival saw jungle come of age. Suddenly every sound system was playing this strange super- fast music. As the DJs dropped the needle, everyone under 25 went loopy, straight into robotic dance frenzy; the over 25s stood about scratching their heads wondering what they were missing out on.
While dance-hall reggae has faced up to world-wide popularity and toned down most of its less responsible lyrics, jungle remains defiantly hardcore. The lyrics deal explicitly with gangster and gun culture - the more sexist, the more violent, the better. It is to music what Mortal Kombat is to video games. Aggressive, violent but totally compulsive. Junglists (the name for its disciples) are very proud of their music and their roots. They make a point of being English. The guys who talk on the microphone as the music plays, MCs, talk in a cockney accent. Forget American rap or Jamaican reggae, this is a London invention. The DJs, the performers and the punters are totally racially mixed. Like all crazes and cults, jungle has its own dress code. Out go the flowing velvets and silks of ragga, out go the baggy jeans of US rap, in comes the Millwall supporters look. Smart, casual and as expensive as possible. It's Armani denim jackets, Versace shirts and polished loafers. They do not want to imitate anyone else's style, they have their own style, their own music.
Illegality plays a big part in the scene, drugs are not frowned upon and illegal pirate radio stations in particular have supported the music, advertised the raves and kept it going. Two in particular: Cool FM and Week End Rush. Most of the original jungle crew come from Cool FM, they include DJs like Brocky, generally considered to be the most innovative of all the jungle DJs and MCs with wonderful aliases like the Navigator, Five-0 (after Hawaii Five-0, slang for the police) and the Moose.
But now the jungle scene is experiencing the downside of success. Recently ragga star General Levy diversified into jungle and had a Top 20 hit with 'Incredible'. Levy had previously had nothing to do with the Jungle scene and his success is deeply resented by the original junglists. To make matters worse Levy called himself 'The King of the Jungle'. Shy FX, the celebrated young jungle producer, goes silent when Levy's name is mentioned, only saying, 'He's unspeakable'. Those who invented it want it to remain within their control. But the record moguls are monitoring a fully- fledged grass-roots movement as it delivers a stream of commercially viable records. They are gearing up for a piece of the action. The original junglists must reclaim their territory.
Jungle clubs include: 'Thunder' and 'Joy' at Raw, 112a Great Russell St, WC1 Sun 10pm pounds 8 / pounds 4 before midnight; The Paradise Club, 1-5 Parkfield St, N1 (071- 354 9993) Fri & Sat 11pm-9am, pounds 9. One- off jungle event is Jungle Splash at Bagleys Studio, York Way, N1 (071-275 7888) 4 Nov 9pm-6am pounds 12
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