Meditations on… jungle
Words by: Eddie Otchere and Andrew Green
In England, the warehouses of yesterday’s empires became the temples of hardcore ragga techno: jungle. Here, freedom was found; no limits in time, or our movements, just total happiness. We gravitated towards new things, smoked things, downed things, in these places, distorted, where parachutes hung from ceilings, covering the rotted remnants of industry.
These were the adventure playgrounds of the early 90s, given form by Cubase, Atari ST interfaces, Akai S1000 samplers, dubplates cut at Music House and the DJs who play them, as well as the promoters, security, toilet attendants, dealers, punters, ravers and everything else that goes into building a culture of sound. Through drum’n’bass, we were compressed into one carefully defocused being. The radio pirates would share our means of bass, recruiting more beings to the dance: this leg, that leg, our heads all spelling out the depth of power as we shake to the breakbeat. We reclaimed otherwise liminal spaces. And on those nights, we’d catch the night bus to Stockwell and walk home.
The high didn’t last long, but we worked every day to try and get it back. The bass, the heat, the drums, the lights, the love, the hugs, the strawberry smoke, the girls, the rude boys, the bouncers, the warehouses, the police, the dawn, the comedown. We of Africa with them of Europe gathered, danced, fused and came to share the same vision quest.
At its core, the rave was a drum’n’bass fission reactor – a high density and high temperature environment ideal for forming new groups and new ways of being. What we saw in ’88 was the dawn of the hardcore continuum. What you know today is just how precious our lives together are.
Jungle and the progeny that it spawned – drum’n’bass, speed garage, dubstep, grime – provided an avenue for young Black people to represent their authentic selves. Working class children of hard-working parents, raised on the same estates, turning a united raving face to those from the rarified air above – and creating career trajectories that they’d never thought possible. The people living in stultified monocultural spaces feared the basslines that boomed from the speakers in these underground caverns, that drew teens of all classes once they’d heard them.
Courtesy of Eddie Otchere
The jungle generation, sharp point of the spear, claimed a musical foothold in the hearts and minds of a young population living in a country still gripped by Thatcherism and the splintered community that her leadership created. Could drum’n’bass arrive without the pressure of unequal times? Can a youth movement created to escape the drudgery of the working week, through music so forward-looking that it feels like the future, still appeal in the present?
Now, a quarter of a century later, the country is beguiled by Johnson and his egoism. We’ve been amputated from a broader community with our European cousins, locked down for 18 months, with the youth separated from the clubbing highs they assumed were a right. It feels as if this moment is primed for that future techno, science fiction stepper of a sound to reappear – to shine a light towards a more hopeful future.
Whatever our post-Covid future provides, wherever you go clubbing, remember to be safe. You are the future. Be good to each other. Remember music comes first; the rest will follow. You should not feel criminalised while you play. We must change that. Adapt space, add bass, grow.