What is Jungle, what is House?

House music

The buzz words around town these days are “jungle” “drum’n’bass” and “house.”?It seems like everywhere you go, someone is talking emphatically about the great underground party they attended or the slammin’ new jungle cut they’ve just heard. Well, such conversations are great if you happen to be hip and up on the happenings concerning the underground club scene.

House music

As for everyone else, words like “break-beat” and “Jungle” bear no real significance on their lives. Primarily this has to do with the fact that these musical terms refer to a music genre that has become considerably advanced. Hence it’s difficult for someone to really understand and appreciate “Jungle” if they don’t really understand its main roots which is “house.”

So let’s kick some historical ballistics on the subject. What is house? House music is a continuation of disco. We’re not talking disco as defined by groups like the Bee Gees or the Saturday Night Fever bubblegum crap that led to the popular 70’s slogan “disco sucks.”

Instead we’re talking about classic, black, urban, Philadelphia, R&B, style disco as first defined by artists like First Choice, Loletta Halloway, Barbara Roy and MFSB. In fact many consider the drum patterns used in MFSB’s classic “Love is the Message” as a primary building block around house. This particular track has been remade and remixed numerous times.

House music’s origins stretch back to 1977 when New York DJ Frankie Knuckles came to Chicago to establish an after-hours dance club called the Warehouse. Knuckles drew large crowds because he successfully incorporated popular NY style mixing and remixing techniques with black urban disco.

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Knuckles’ unique style along with the DJ-ing techniques of popular Chicago jocks such as Kenny “Jammin”‘ Jason and Farley “Jackmaster” Funk paved the way for contemporary or “traditional” house. These early house grooves were characterized by a raw, steady beat, piano riffs and haunting, synthesized tremblines. The vocals were sprinkled with phrases like “jack your body” and “jack the house.” (Jacking is a dance, but many performers used it with sexual connotations.) The success of this early house via clubs like the Warehouse led to the formation of Chicago’s premiere house labels Trax and DJ International.

Over the years house music grew, splintered off and incorporated other musical styles much the same way as did hip hop. For example, in the mid-eighties, Chicago house migrated to NY where it was integrated with the city’s fully produced club music and given better arrangements, better orchestration and powerful, gospel-like vocals. Such music was best characterized by classics like Full House’s “Communicate,” Pleasure Pump’s “Fantasize Me,” and Joe Smooth’s “Promised Land.”

The continuing integration of Chicago house and NY style R&B club music has led to what we now call “Deep House” and “Garage House. ” Tracks with the soulful, gospel-like vocals are often deemed Garage, which is named after the famed NY but now defunct house club. As is the case with any underground based music, house began to find itself within the commercial ranks.

Some of its pioneers like the group JM Silk signed major label recording contracts while pop stars like Rick Astley (“Together Forever”) and Natalie Cole (“Pink Cadillac”) latched onto the house groove. This commercialization was shunned by the core house audience and resulted in some of its originators to go further underground and emerge with new cutting edge forms of house.

Acid house, a hybrid of traditional and Hi-NRG dance music, was one example. This genre was characterized by a bumblebee-like bassline, known as the “funky worm” that was caused by use of an out-dated 303 synthesizer. (Examples include Tyree’s “Acid Over” and Fast Eddie’s “Acid Thunder.”)

The term “acid” initially referred to burning someone by sampling or “biting” one’s musical style. This translation was lost when the music travelled overseas to London where house fans put the 60’s drug connotation to it. The result was people getting into the music for the purpose of trippin’ out as a result of getting high off a drug like ecstasy. It was here that house began to fuse with forms of dance oriented rock and industrial music. It was this fusion that laid some of the groundwork for the current drum’n’bass and Jungle scenes.

Simultaneously traditional house was beginning to fuse with hip hop thanks to Brooklyn based producer Todd Terry and Chicago house veterans Fast Eddie and Tyree Cooper. Prior to this hip hop and house were on opposite sides of the musical spectrum, but all that changed when Rob Base and EZ Rock dropped the classic jam “It takes Two.”

The midtempo swing beat of this hip hop groove was a favorite everywhere and somehow managed to unite the two camps. Its existence helped make Terry’s style house more palatable to the traditional house audience. Prior to that Terry’s grooves which were characterized by classical piano riffs, skillful sampling and mid to uptempo hip hop beats were at home among those into the Latino freestyle.

It wasn’t long before Terry produced classics like Warlock’s “A Day in the Life,” Swan Lake’s “The Dream,” or Royal House’s “Can You Party” which became house music mainstays. In Chicago the tracks produced by Fast Eddie and Tyree seemed to be more rooted in traditional house with a rap being incorporated. Eddie’s Planet Rock-like groove “Yo Yo Get Funky” is a classic and many credit him with coming up with the term “hip house.” As for the first house record utilizing rappers, many turn to the Jungle Brothers jam “I’ll House You.”

While hip house was taking hold, techno house was being born in Detroit. Folks like Kevin Saunderson, Juan Atkins and Frankie Bones are the primary names that immediately come to mind. The techno style produced by Saunderson came in the form of the group Inner City [“Big Fun” and “Good Life”].

It was fully produced or deep house with a slightly hard, electronic edge. Juan Atkins and Frankie Bones’ grooves seemed to have more of electronic/metalic/industrial sound. An interesting note, Atkins was the primary architect behind the group Cybotron which brought the hip hop electronic classic “Clear.”

As house advanced and its various genres and subgenres began to fuse with other musical styles, the groundwork was being laid for the current Jungle/drum’n’bass scene. Jungle is a harder edge driven dance music that has the same rhythmic patterns as other house genres but use a harder synthesizer and a harder sample. The basslines of current Jungle songs could be derived from such hard samples. For example, the sound of a chainsaw could be sampled and played in harmonic progression to make up a Jungle bassline.

Also, Jungle is characterized by a faster rhythmic pattern. “Techno” is usually 126-130 bpm whereas deep house which is derived mostly from R&B, NY and New Jersey deep grooves is set around 116-122 bpm. In other genres of house like deep or garage the energy is more emotional as compared to the energy released in techno which is more raging.

With regards to the terms being over-used much too much, one of the reasons is because they are the current buzz words or immediately identifiable term which describes the latest underground dance scene. It is what I would call a hip term to describe the techno movement. In techno there are various subgenres like “hard house,” “hard techno,” and “ambient techno”… But all that really matters is that people get into the groove and have a good time.

The rave scene in the Czech Republic, in particular Prague, is on fire. In fact much of the activity here has surpassed Berlin, which is often cited as being the trendsetter for dance music. “The whole Jungle scene here in Prague is becoming a lifestyle,” notes one regular clubgoer. “People are going to clubs and they’re dressing the part. They’re wearing funky clothes, blowing whistles, and expressing their individuality. It’s a costume type of situation. If you can look funky and different from everyone else, then you’re happening.

“When asked about the hot spots in Prague, he noted that Radost on Tuesday nights with Rico’s Soul Train and Wednesdays with DISKO 2001 and Technical Support which changes location with each event, although its promoters will start holding weekly events at Cibulka, are major. He went on to cite, among others like Roxydusts’ “SHAKE,” Citrik Sounds, D Smack U’s fine offering of shows all around the country, Tango in Prague, Prague’s Underground On-Strike and the Super Sonic garage parties in Brno, and L-klub in Pardubice. He pointed out that at almost any record or hip clothing or shoe store in Prague, one will find a counter full of flyers advertising various underground parties.

It is worth noting that while Jungle is a phenomenon, it will not necessarily die out because of its roots in house. Various types of house surface and resurface again under a different name and Jungle is no different. He pointed to 1993 as a big year in which Jungle began to happen. It went away for awhile and reappeared in ’95 and ’98.

“There’s a revolution happening in the Czech Republic right now in night clubs. Young people have finally taken things into their own hands. They haven’t waited for the night club owners to institute changes but instead changes have come from the promoters. It won’t be long before some of the tired clubs in the villages start having Jungle nights.”