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Drum and bass

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 Drum and bass

Drum and bass (drum n bass, DnB) is an electronic music style. Drum and bass, originally an offshoot of the United Kingdom breakbeat hardcore and rave scene, came into existence when people mixed reggae basslines with sped-up hip hop breakbeats and influences from techno. Pioneers such as raggamuffin DJ General Levy and other DJs quickly became the stars of Drum and bass, then still called jungle. Producers such as Goldie and 4 Hero transformed the current art and turned drum and bass in more instrumental direction, spawning sub-genres like techstep and moving the genre closer to techno. Some of the more popular and defining artists include Shy FX, Ed Rush & Optical, LTJ Bukem, Goldie, and Roni Size.

Table of contents
1 Musicology of drum and bass
2 History
3 Accessing drum and bass in the UK
4 Notable artists

Musicology of drum and bass

The breakbeat is what loosely speaking defines the music as drum and bass. Generally speaking, this rhythm, stripped down to its raw bones is played using a kick drum sound and a snare, the tempo being at around 160 - 180 beats per minute with the beats on the 1, 3, 6, 7 quaver (or half) beats, alternating between the kick and the snare.

Drum and bass is also known as Jungle, a moniker stemming from a rough area in Kingston, Jamaica originally known as Concrete Jungle. It was likely named after this area due to the harshness or roughness of the beats and rhythm. By the mid-1990s, the term Jungle on the British scene had come to refer to a rougher, darker style of drum and bass influenced by the raggamuffin dance hall tradition and favouring ragga-style MCs, repetitive sampled drum loopss and distorted bass (rather than the melodic vocals, programmed drums and floaty synthesizer ambience common in so-called 'intelligent' drum and bass). Modern 'dark' drum and bass showcases highly programmed and complex beats running between 160 and 180 BPM, with synth leads that strongly emphasize the sub-bass frequencies, and frequently make use of various cuts and breaks in order to keep the dancing audience from becoming bored and losing energy.

There are many views of what constitutes "real" drum and bass as it has many scenes and styles within it, from heavy pounding bass lines to liquid funk and downright 'chilled out' elevator music. It has been compared with jazz where the listener can get very different sounding music all coming under the same music genre, because like drum and bass, it is more of an approach, or a tradition, than a style. Drum and bass, however, progresses at a rapid pace, tunes sounding old and of dated style after only a few years.

Relationship to other electronic music styles

Recently the drum and bass genre, evolving in the same manner as other electronic music sub-genres such as house, and Goa trance, has become much more specific as a genre and minimal. For example, whereas many rhythms and samples were utilized in older drum and bass (such as the "amen break"), most modern drum and bass features exclusively what is known as the funky drummer rhythm, and distorted bass lines with less melodic elements.

Intelligent Dance Music (also known as "IDM"), popularized by Aphex Twin, features many of the same types of rhythms used in drum and bass and is generally focused on complexity in programming and instrumentation. Amongst its main proponents include Squarepusher.


Drum and bass started in the UK cities of London and Bristol around 1992 and mainly came out of the house/hardcore music scenes with predominant musical influences being dub music and hip-hop. The drum and bass genre has gone through numerous mutations and sub-genrefications, making it one of the most diverse styles to rise out of the rave scene of the 1990s. It is played all over the world and is considered by some to be at its most progressive and cutting edge in London.

Beginnings in the UK

Early jungle music was referred to as breakbeat hardcore, which was an offshoot of uk rave music that focused on the breakbeat. As a more and more bass-heavy and uptempo sound developed, jungle began to develop its own separate identity. The sound took on a very urban, raggamuffin sound, incorporating dancehall "ragga" style mc chants, dub basslines, but also increasingly complex, high tempo rapid fire breakbeat percussion. By 1995, a counter movement to the ragga style was emerging, dubbed "intelligent" jungle, and was embodied by LTJ Bukem and his Good Looking label. Intelligent jungle maintained the uptempo breakbeat percussion, but focused on more atmospheric sounds and warm, deep basslines over rough vocals or samples. At the same time, the ragga jungle sound mutated into a more stripped down hard percussive style, Hardstep, and its more hiphop and funk influenced sister style Jump-Up, while other artists pushed a smoother, dubby style of tune, reffered to as Rollers.

Through 1996, Hardstep and JumpUp sounds where popular in the clubs, while Intelligent jungle was pushing a sound more accessible to the home listener. Stylistically things kept getting more and more diverse, as well as crossbreading with other styles of jungle. In 1997, a funky, double-bass oriented sound came to the forefront, and gained some mainstream success with Roni Size's New Forms album winning the UK's Mercury Prize. On the other end of the spectrum, a new dark, technical sound in drum and bass was gaining popularity, championed by the labels Emotif and No U-Turn, and artists like Trace, Ed Rush and Optical, and commonly referred to as techstep. Techstep took new sounds and technololgies and applied them to jungle. It is characterized by sinister or science-fiction atmospherics and themes, cold and complex percussion, and dark basslines.

As the 1990s drew to a close, techstep came to dominate the drum and bass genre, becoming more minimal, and increasingly dark in tone, and the funky, commercial appeal represented by Roni Size back in 1997 was waning. By 2000, there was an increasing movement to "bring the fun back into drum and bass". There was a new revival of rave-oriented sounds, as well as remixes of classic jungle tunes that brought things full circle back to the origins. Although techstep continued to dominate, other substyles have gained ground over the first several years of the decade, including the highly techno oriented style of Konflict, the dub sounds of Digital and the house meets drum and bass flavor of Marcus Intallex.

Drum and bass outside the UK

One country to have recently developed a drum and bass is Brazil, with DJ Marky and DJ Patife amongst many others. The rhythms are strikingly similar to Latin music and putting a Latin sample to breakbeats works well. This has been somewhat commercialised with Shy FX's tune: "Shake Ur Body" taking the cliched latin piano from TV program Sex and the City and getting it into the mainstream (UK) charts with some pop sounding production. Another successful tune along similar Brazilian lines is "Don't Wanna Know", but the artist is from Essex (North of London), not Brazil.

Accessing drum and bass in the UK

Pursuing drum and bass in London, involves spending a lot of money on records. A single tune, usually on a 12 inch piece of vinyl costs about 6 pounds (in 2003) from Black Market Records one of the principle outlets, D'Arblay St, London W1. Clubbing is also very expensive. As of 2003, drum and bass on radio in London can be heard on Rude FM, Cool Fm (94.5) and Rude Awakening (104.3) are pirate radio stations that have been going for many years. Drum and bass also be heard on BBC Radio 1 (as of 2003, on Friday nights).

Notable artists

Notable DJs: Notable MCs: