When 'Incredible', a track by M-Beat featuring General Levy, went in at number 40 this week, a suitably awed Bruno Brookes announced that this was the first Jungle record to make it into the chart. Anyone who remembers Shut Up And Dance's hit 'Raving' ('Your name's not down, you can't come in') will know roughly what Jungle sounds like. It's an unlikely union of the two strongest and least similar dance musics of the Nineties - ragga and hardcore house. Levy, a 23-year-old Londoner of Trinidadian parents, provides the vocals on 'Incredible', which are nearly incomprehensible - not so much for being in dialect ('We mad the whole of dem / And spin dem like a windmill', he says of his competitors), but because they come too fast to decipher. 'Booyaka' he intones, 'Wicked, wick-eed'. The song is as radio friendly as Jungle can get, taking the music out of the council estates and into the winebars. It contains all the right elements - wild gear changes, opaque vocals, a reggae bassline with house bass drum, and those long pauses in which everyone shifts from foot to foot.
In Edmonton, things are more raw on the dancefloor. MCs, such as Moose, 5.0, and the Ragga Twins, chat live over dub plates (instrumental tracks of beats and samples), using the ruffneck voice that can be heard on many of London's pirate stations at the moment, stations like Kool, Rush and Dream FM. Three thousand kids are scattered about the roller rink, facing the stage, just as at a rave. There are lasers, people suck ice pops, repeatedly spark their Bic lighters in the air or blow paper horns. But Jungle raves have departed from club tradition. For one, the dancing is fairly nondescript, as everyone picks out a rhythm they can dance to from the blur of beats. Second, there is no dress code - at Thunder & Joy, the fortnightly club on a Sunday at RAW, a few ragga boys come in their sunglasses and gold, but mostly it's casual - jeans and trainers, a few ponytailed ravers of the old school, and a surprisingly high count of suburban-looking white girls. The third and most important thing about the Jungle scene is its total racial integration. There is no territorial vibe at all. The majority of the crowd is black, but Asians and white people are mixed in thoroughly, not in cliques. And there is none of the white-yobbo feel that befell hardcore house in the latter days.
Jungle doesn't have to be a ragga vocal either. Bruck Wild's 'Silent Voice' (Sound Man) uses the dreamy soul vocal from Innocence's chart hit of that name. 'People say it's too fast,' laughs Sound Man, the dreadlocked young producer, 'But Metallica onstage are putting out 150 BPM and no one says you can't dance to that. They'll get used to it.'
'People, especially the reggae people, dissed Junglist music at the start,' says Ivan, one of the organisers of Jungle Fever. 'But now everybody's coming over.' A few of his companions kiss their teeth at the mention of General Levy. 'Respect to Levy, but where was he six months ago?' says one. 'He's a ragga artist]' Ivan and his mates are proud of having come from the Acid house boom and through hardcore rave music when it was desperately unfashionable in the black community. 'The jungle crowd know their music,' he says. 'They get into a jungle fever in there, and it's not done with the aid of Es. The tabloids are just waiting for the first accident then it'll be all 'Jungle - The Music of Death' headlines. But this is the only thing exploding on the underground right now. A kicking tune will sell as many as 8,000 copies.'
This is what gets the major record labels excited. Jungle re-mixes can make your artist instantly clubbable: Buju Banton, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Galliano and Shara Nelson are all about to be given the treatment. General Levy, meanwhile, is laughing. 'I put a lyric to something where everyone else was just shouting 'Junglist massive, Junglist massive]' all night.' No one knows where the name Jungle came from. A reappropriation of a common bouncer insult, the bongo sound, or something to do with the Almondtown ghetto in Kingston, known as the Jungle?
It's still only a London thing. Levy, who lives in Harlesden, thinks it's a 'cry of energy from people who have to live in the concrete jungle. Junglistic beats bring out the wild streak in everyone.' It's going to be an interesting summer.Reuse content