Bring the Break-Beat Back! Authenticity and the Politics of Rhythm in Jungle/Drum ‘n’ Bass

Christodoulou, C. 2019. Bring the Break-Beat Back! Authenticity and the Politics of Rhythm in Jungle/Drum ‘n’ Bass.

TitleBring the Break-Beat Back! Authenticity and the Politics of Rhythm in Jungle/Drum ‘n’ Bass
CreatorsChristodoulou, C.
Description

IASPM UK & Ireland/ASARP/ISMMS/ASARP
Crosstown Traffic Conference, University of Huddersfield
3rd-5th September 2018

Abstract

Since the formation of drum ‘n’ bass, and its semantic predecessor, jungle, out of London’s inner city regions in the early-1990s, the break-beat has been the focus of critical discussion amongst participants about the cultural value of rhythm in the genre. The formal emphasis placed on accelerated break-beats – brief rhythmic segments characterised by speed, rupture, and musically translated into feelings of ‘funkiness’ – points, on the one hand, to its development out of a condition of rapid technological change in a post-industrial society, and, on the other, to the dynamic matrix of cultural exchange to which Gilroy refers as the Black Atlantic (1993).

While break-beats continue to be a prominent feature of the genre as a whole, the most popular drum ‘n’ bass tracks from artists such as Pendulum, Sigma and DJ Fresh displace ‘breaks’ in favour of simplified ‘two-step’ beat structures more typical of styles outside the direct influence of Black Atlantic culture, such as rock and metal. This has been the occasion for some drum ‘n’ bass participants to argue that the recent dominance of the two-step in mainstream examples of the music provides evidence for its cultural whitening, and its dumbing-down, ironically leading to a resurgence in the use of ‘jungle’; a term previously derided by participants for its ethnocentric connotations.

This paper will examine the extent to which this authentication of rhythmic complexity in drum ‘n’ bass culture articulates an unsettling of the stereotypical identification of blackness with bodily excess and mindlessness. More generally, it will also point towards the stratification of rhythm in electronic dance music genres.

Date03 Oct 2019
Web address (URL)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqsMhiqNlys
Media typeVideo
LicenseCC BY

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Permalink - https://westminsterresearch.westminster.ac.uk/item/qx5q4/bring-the-break-beat-back-authenticity-and-the-politics-of-rhythm-in-jungle-drum-n-bass


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