Dazed bring the final part of their series of music mini-docs to the small screen, and they’ve saved the best to last with the utterly compelling Jungle Fever, a breakneck look at the history of jungle. All the key players are here: Shut Up and Dance, Ragga Twins, Fabio, Grooverider, Nicky Blackmarket and Hype to name a few and they tell the tale with the wit and swagger you’d expect. It packs into 23 minutes more recollections and insights than the average music doc manages to get into an hour or more. This may be because the story is told exclusively by the original creators, rather than the scenesters and industry heads that jumped all over jungle once it dropped. From Shut Up and Dance speeding up old r n b records and toasting over them, to the pirate radio crews jamming the London frequencies, this is their story and one of which they’re fiercely proud. “We built our own thing for ourselves, by ourselves”, comments Blackmarket matter-of-factly. The A & R men were a long way behind: “We were doing the A & R, and they were getting paid” notes Ray Keith. Hype recalls records selling 20,000 units out the back of a van. “What it done to me, was it said ‘fuck the industry’, it’s out the back of a car and it’s real” recalling Simon Reynolds observation in Energy Flash, that youth music scenes are more micro-capitalist than anti-capitalist. Macro-capitalism, embodied by the major labels, is the enemy “not because it’s corrupt or interested in profit, but because it’s bereaucratic, clueless, slow-moving, it can’t respond nimbly to the massive’s rapidly evolving taste”
In many ways the story of Jungle follows a familiar trajectory, one that’s been shared by countless music scenes, from punk and beyond. An underground scene emerges and explodes, the major labels get in on the act, the purists bemoan its growing commercialisation and the scene implodes, the majority deserting and the hardcore going back underground. This was the path dubstep followed a decade later and the parallels don’t end there, with both scenes emerging from London’s long-standing love of reggae and sound-system culture, a skin both scenes went on to shed as they expanded. The difference is that when dubstep exploded it went truly global; a product of the digital age. Jungle of course existed way back before the internet, and its main carrier, pirate radio, was limited to its geographical boundaries. No coincidence then that the voices on this documentary are all London, and jungle and drum n bass is still, essentially, a British phenomenon. As Ray Keith says, “The Americans have hip hop … we’ve got jungle, drum n bass, we’re proud of that til we die”.