When done right, the underground music genre primer can be the most dynamic type of documentary. We’ve seen it time and again, whether it’s punk, hip-hop, or in this case the hugely energetic scene surrounding the dance music subgenre known as jungle in early-‘90s London. In 1994, the All Black show on BBC 2 presented this community-conscious look at a genre that would eventually morph into a largely over-the-top mish-mash of sci-fi imagery and unsubtle software flogging.
At the time of the doc, jungle is definitely posited as young, multicultural black music, and treated in classically analytical BBC style. DJs, producers, MCs, label people, academics—everybody seems to chime in on issues of roots, authenticity and commercialism. Not only do you get an intro to the basic ingredients of the music—the samples! the reggae! the soul! the basslines! the breakbeats! the speed!—but the producers even weave in some drama surrounding a club gig starring the legendary Shy FX and his crew.
Of course, this program fails to feature some of the genre’s giants, like Goldie, Roni Size or Dillinja. But the American Moonshine Music label sent journalists a VHS copy of this doc along with their compilation Law of the Jungle for good reason—it’s a quality document of a time now long gone. Check it!