Rhythm Lab Records & The History of Jungle Music

Heya Folks! Wow it has been a minute since I last posted to the blog! Of course we’ve had the wonderful Tea & Tones Series that I’ve been working on for the last month and I’ve been working on hard on new music for you all, In between the scheduled university final year breakdown. But I’m back today to talk with you about my friend Iyunoluwanimi Yemi-Shodinu, Rhythm Lab Records and their new series “I just love how Black it was!” I had a wonderful conversation via email with Iyun and I really enjoyed the first episode of the series. It talks all about the history of Jungle Music, featuring legendary MC MADRUSH, it’s a deep dive into a world that I’ve never been a part of. I greatly enjoyed the experience and it’s left me eager to learn more. In order to do this I spoke with Iyun in an interview, the full transcript of which you can find below!

First up, can you tell me a little bit about Rhythm Lab Records?

Rhythm Lab Records is an independent community based record label run out of Manchester. We’re a sister company to Reform Radio, a community radio station and talent development platform that has become a staple in the Manchester scene. A year ago, 6 young creatives under 25 (including myself) were hired to run the label and bring it towards a new direction. Since then we’ve worked to solidify Rhythm Lab Records as a place where young talents in Manchester can come and explore the roots in their music, as well as challenge themselves to collaborate outside of their usual creative space. We sign music (EPs/singles) not artists as we see ourselves as an innovative step in an artist’s journey, as opposed to their final destination. In pushing to work and collaborate outside of their comfort zones a lot of the artists that we worked with have made some of their best and most dynamic music with us and for almost all of them this will now be just a new standard to excel past in the rest of their careers.

Coming from an outsider perspective, what’s the best place to get started with jungle music? Any favourite artists or albums you can recommend?

So a lot of our knowledge on Jungle came from having to research this project and discovering how vibrant and intoxicating the Manchester Jungle scene was. A Guy Called Gerald and of course MC MADRUSH and the entire are good points of contact for the crazy, innovative stuff that was happening back then in Manny. The track VOODOO RAY for example is a classic in this regard. I must give the disclaimer that Jungle is new to me too! Like a lot of your readers, I am also a burgeoning Jungle fan and so a lot of the rabbit holes and recommendations that helped me situate myself in the history of Jungle came from both research and on the ground recommendations by my hardcore Jungle friends like TAIGA (@DJ.SOYBOI). For example they told me to look up Sully, Over Shadow, Moving Shadow and I have been obsessed ever since. Metalheads is also a great place to start in this regard!

Could you give a brief overview of the history of Jungle music for my readers?

This is a complicated one but I will try! In the 90s, a post Thatcher Britain saw diverse and under-represented factions of society forming alliances in what was- and still very much is- an unfair and dangerous time for their respective communities. These alliances saw people of colour and members of the LGBT community joining hands to protect and party with each other in safe spaces of their making- i.e Shebeens which we discuss in episode 1 of the documentary. And like other similar movements of the past century that took place in Britain- like the early Daytimers movement that swept through London in the late sixties and early seventies- these alliances often came with new and innovative dance music born from underground interpretations of Jamaican sound system culture. In the sixties this led to the sounds of Dub taking over Britain and in the 90s Jungle was born, taking the lower tempo sounds of its Hardcore predecessor and adding distinctly darker melodies, basslines and vocal textures that stem straight from Jamaica. The call and response nature of Jungle music is unique for electronic music of the time, the crowd is very much a part of any good jungle performance. This also stems from Jungle’s Jamaican sound system roots and is an aspect that genres which evolved from Jungle- particularly Drum n Bass would run with, to astonishing effects. But that’s a topic for another day! Please do your own research on this as well. The history of Jungle is too rich and interesting to fit into this paragraph, this is merely a summation from one dude!

What are the plans for future episodes?

We want to keep looking at how Manchester has informed and transformed the history of electronic music. There is a lot that our team uncovered in just researching this one episode, people running some of the first black queer nights in Europe out of Manny, women who have intrigual to the history of drum n bass, hiphop and even dance. Honestly the answer is that right now we don’t know. For now we are looking for funding, but rest assured that finding a story to tell about the innovations from Manchester electronic music is the easy part. 

Will you explore black history in other genres of music?

Yes! As mentioned earlier, Drum n Bass, Hiphop, Disco, House. Black people have been at the forefront of it all! They deserved to be celebrated

In the episode MadRush talks about the adversity he faced trying to play jungle music in the clubs, and issues with promoters being against the congregation of black people in clubs. Does this still persist today?

Yes and it is sad! The whole team have friends (that will go unnamed) and have heard stories of black night runners struggling to find a venue for their parties in Manchester because “we just don’t do that type of music here” but when a white crew comes to play similar music at the same venues they don’t have a problem. In one of these stories, the person in charge of the night finally got a venue and that venue ended up making more money at the bar than they have ever made since the venue opened. I as a black man have found it so hard finding where black people go to party in Manchester and I am only just now finding some of these spots right now. These stories extend past myself as well, talking to people who throw black queer nights in Manny has really been harrowing even and sometimes especially from the gay community in Manny itself. The gay village is not known for being the most black friendly spot. 

Basically the promoters in Manchester as always need to do better or step out of the way. Now that I have been finding more black events in Manchester they are often lively, infectious and some of the most fun I have had in the country But that is sadly often despite the best efforts of the venue itself.   

what can others who are not part of that community do to help? How can they best honour and respect the struggles of those young black artists who fought so hard to make their voices heard?

Speak out when you see something weird! Look out for your black friends or just black people at any parties you are in regardless of whether it’s a black event or not. Look out for racist bouncers as I can personally attest they can ruin your night in a heartbeat. If you see a person of colour being harassed by a bouncer ask why? Solidarity is how we win. There are many other things you can do. If you’re a promoter put people of colour and queer people on your nights. Book black women. Go to black parties that very often are quite welcoming to white people and don’t be a racist weirdo! All this and more! Have fun with it. The problem extends well past club nights and spawns from a history of white supremacy but still do your part wherever you can!    

Wrapping up, just want to say thank you to you and your team once again for creating such a brilliant piece of content that provides an insight into an important part of musical history. Is there anything else you would like my readers to know?

Thank you for having us! These were all really fun to answer. Check out Rhythm Lab Records back catalogue! Honestly all of our music is fire! Check out episode 1 of “I just love how black it was..” Follow us on instagram @rhythmlabrecords and stay tuned for our Releases and club nights as well as development programs. In early December we’re throwing a synth workshop for cis/trans Women as well as any non-binary people who feel comfortable in that space. Come along! Have fun learn about synths, it’s free.

Be kind to one another! We appreciate you all very much.

Hello! Oscar again, well done for reading the whole way through! I’ve really appreciated Iyunoluwanimi’s time in answering my questions and I’m already arranging a trip up to Manchester to visit Rhythm Lab Records, among many other locations, in order to network and get to know a city that has given the musical world so much. I look forward to working with him and his team even more in future. Thank you for reading, and as always,

Peace, Love and Cowbells,

Oscar

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