There’s No Place Like Home?

As someone who missed out on the Jungle sounds of 93-96 as they were happening, I’ve been kinda lucky to be able to experience a least a fraction of what the Jungle Rave was like via the references, mixes and sets that have been cropping up around me over the past few months.

This mix from Kid Kameleon courtesy of Gutterbreakz focuses not on the old school sounds but on new Ragga-Jungle, but still works as a prescription for those looking for a path to memory lane whilst keeping their feet firmly on the sounds and influences of now. Geographically, as Kid K says in the post, this relatively small but vibrant scene has no real home to speak of and instead travels from city to city allowing it to be picked up and shaped to suit the tastes of different groups and cultures, something which is very obvious in the mix.

Interestingly, as part of what is more than just a breakdown of Ragga Jungle, Kid K also explains the concept of ‘Outsider Artists,’ which he defines as being those who ‘musically draw on the sounds of a scene without being physically present,’ in this instance using Grime as an example, resulting in hours of thought about my opposite experiences and observations as an ‘Insider Listener.’

As we Londoners ourselves know, Londoners are not particularly patriotic of the UK, or in fact London as a whole- choosing to express most love and pride towards the particular part of London that we feel most connection with. Whilst I have a huge appetite for the many weird and wonderful things that this country and indeed the whole world has to offer, as a born and bred South London, actual red hot passion for the UK doesn’t extend much further than the boroughs of Lewisham (south east), Lambeth and Merton (south central and south west), Croydon (south) where my musical preferences reside to aurally represent an environment and experiences familiar to me. (Big Dada, DMZ and Inperspective to name just a few).

This love of familiar environments and home comforts whether manifested through the music we choose or the food we eat, if embodied in other cities could explain why St George’s day celebrations are now pretty much null and void. So preoccupied are we with celebrating the particulars of our own particular compass point, that we simply haven’t got the time or inclination to even consider celebrating the island that the compass points are part of.

Musically, expression of pride for an exact location has always been a given. In UK terms, patriotism for the UK as whole is only really displayed in football songs and and in London terms, Grime MC’s probably have the easiest platform to express pride, at least in comparison to Dubstep which devoid of lyrics has to find other ways to show devotion to it’s home, usually through the titles of the tunes and art-work.

With this is mind, it seems to make sense that Loefah and Digital Mystikz, who have been based in South London for years have a tendency to play sets constructed purely of tracks by fellow South Londoners which naturally share similar vibes to their own, whilst Kode9 who (although an honorary South Londoner), originally from Scotland, considers London and its sounds as one entity, reflected in his sets that mix up the sounds of many areas and reinforcing his feelings expressed in Blackdown’s Fusion Confusion post that ‘if you think they’re separate strains – you’re too close to them.’

This preoccupation that a Londoner holds for his or her particular area coupled with a need to narrate and celebrate the journeys experienced within it might also help to explain why East London’s Grime artists and South London’s Dubstep artists (with a few exceptions- notably South London’s Plasticman) have remained pretty separate, making no attempt to share the overall ‘Grime’ category that everyone from Rephlex to Radio 1 has lumped both these sounds and their off shoots into.

Somewhat ironically, just as the two are finally becoming openly identified and accepted in the media as two separate but not completely unconnected entities (for example Mary-Anne Hobb’s recent Grime and Dubstep special), there’s a scent of a merger of the two areas in the air, most recently noted by Blackdown in the same fusion confusion post.

This prediction that things are set to merge might seem like no biggy, particularly as individually they too are hybrids of a merger gone before; but for two of London’s biggest underground sounds- one of which is often criticised as growing too slowly and the other too fast, it is something that could either make or break either or both of them. Recent reactions on to Forward’s>> forthcoming lineup are a good example of the uncomfortable feeling that unpredictability and change bring. As a result of seeing that a club night known predominantly for Southside’s Dubstep sounds is extending it’s hand to East London’s Grime, it’s all kicked off, whether they realise it or not with South moaning about East , East moaning about South and West moaning (or at least others on behalf of West) at everyone for leaving them out in the first place. Where North fits in to any of this, I don’t know, so someone please shed some light.

Personally speaking, I can’t make my mind up. On one hand I feel somewhat sadly that a merger will only speed up the inevitable journey away from the original source that every music scene appears to go through and on the other hand I feel happy knowing that the two music scenes will be able to borrow from each others strengths (as in Loefah’s Lightz feat. Nasty Crew) thus giving them more momentum. In the same way that the 4 very different characters of the Wizard of Oz only got to their destination as a result of collaboration, they also worried that they’d never be able to return home, which in 21st-century-South-London-musical-me-terms will probably manifest in 10 years time when I’ll be longing for the sounds of my home as I hear them now, in the same way that Jungle heads annoy DnB heads by pining for Jungle as they heard it ‘back in the day.’


10 responses to “There’s No Place Like Home?

  1. ‘if you think they’re separate strains – you’re too close to them.’erm, but clearly they are separate strains. the point was, that the differences between them are so trivial that its not worth calling their combination, a fusion – like it would be pointless saying that the producer Digital was a fusion of jungle and drum’n’bass. thats all. maybe i’ll just keep my mouth shut in future

  2. No keep ’em coming kode! food for thought from someone with more experience of thinking about these things as opposed to myself who’s trying to make sense of it all.I wasn’t criticising your point and actually agree with it. I was (somewhat haphazardly) trying to back it up by saying that you can notice the differences (be they trivial or not) between 2 scenes much more when you’re close to them….Saying Digital was a fusion of jungle and drum n bass maybe pointless but quite accurate….

  3. “people are trying to cross it over into the mainstreamand for me that just loses the whole flavour and the idea of music it’s the underground vibe and that’s the way it should stay, you know what i mean…’s not for the charts, you’s our music and we built it, you know what i mean..and i don’t want to see all the major people jumpin’ on it and exploin’ it, you know..”(Shy FX, 1994.)think about it.. maybe it is 2005, but…

  4. Think about what exactly? Do you believe that the two working together will immediately make them mainstream? The Underground scene is like a family or a community- which is good but can also make it feel claustrophobic. The only way to make sure a family survives is through reproduction which can only happen if they merge with another family. The only way to keep a music scene surviving is to keep it fresh, keep it moving, which can only happen if producers and DJ’s break down barriers and look elsewhere for inspiration.Even if Grime and Dubstep eventually become very commercial- there will always be the next generation of Underground, even if it is very different from the original Underground. Look at DnB- it’s mass produced, sold in volumes, it’s hit the charts, adverts, everything, but there are still strains of DnB that remain Underground and have that ethos (The Bassbin and Inperspective vibe being an example).I strongly respect the way things are happening, with both Grime and Dubstep artists and sorting out their business. Maybe it will mean they can find a compromise between art for arts sake and industry…

  5. Come on! If it went mainstream, how much of an acomplishment would that be for dudes in the scene?? Massive I would say…Look at Roll Deep, they have kept it underground for time and now they are moving on to bigger ting and tings – I heard their track on Kiss this MORNING, couple of years ago I would never have thought or even imagined them getting airplay on such a commercial station! Infinite, you are soo right tho…underground will always stay underground – music evolves every day, always new sounds, new styles – but thats all down to the fresh talent that is continuing to pop up our in a faces on a regular basis….(I honestly didnt write that cos it rhymes…)

  6. yeah you’re right, it would indeed be an accomplishment, even more so if they manage to do it themselves without the help from feelin your rhymin’ skills, maybe u should consider a career as an mc?

  7. Great post, Infinite..lot’s of food for thought there. Just one thing – your link to KK’s mix isn’t working. You’ll need to sort out the URL.

  8. Cheers Nick, just sorted the link out! Thanks to you and Kid K for the the original inspiration.

  9. i think there’s no chance nor will for dubstep to go mainstream. what’s wrong with measured and achieveable goals like making exciting and innovative music for an underground audience?

  10. Nothing wrong with that at all if that’s how the artists want it to stay! For selfish reasons, I’d be inclined to say that it would be better if it stayed underground but I’d feel sorry for all those people missing out on it if it does. That said, they only really need to look to the internet to find it… heh.

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