Jungle Lion, an 11-piece Ska band who have taken over Sheffield with their monumental stage presence, are going to be performing this Sunday at DINA. (Doors at 8pm, £2 entry!) Dave Campbell, the founder of Jungle Lion, has disclosed a bit more about the band and their rise to success.
How was the Jungle Lion created?
Before Jungle Lion, I spent a few years working in a band which did the working men’s club circuit. We played ska but it wasn’t a big band and I got to thinking that it would be nice not be tied to just one circuit. That band came to an end in 2007. I had a break for a while and then started putting Jungle Lion together. It took us over a year of just finding people and learning some songs. We had our first gig in 2009.
Why do you have so many members?
Partly because it’s a rare thing for there to be such a large band, we are able to have this huge presence. Also, when you actually play the type of sound that we do, you can’t really emulate it with a small band. I just wanted to do all these songs and not skimp on them.
How did you grow to be so popular in Sheffield?
We’re such a big band, we make for a big event. When people see us for the first time there is a ‘oh wow, what an earth is this huge band’ factor. We sound enormous and it’s an unusual, novelty thing. People tell their friends about it, it gets the momentum going. Plus, there’s the music that we’re playing: predominantly two-tone ska. It’s very popular, there’s loads of people that love it from the first time they hear it.
What has been the best part of being in the Jungle Lion?
The band I was in when playing at working men’s clubs wouldn’t have ever got booked to play on one of the big stages of Tramlines but Jungle Lion have done that year on year. You feel like you’ve got a bit more freedom, you can play a more well-rounded, varied set. I’ve taken the positive things I’ve learned from the previous band, like management skills, but didn’t take the negatives, like the feeling of being boxed in.
Can you name all the members of your band?
You’ve got a front row and back row with one person in between them. The front row has five people. In the centre of it you have Uken (singer), then either side of him is myself, Dave (bass), and Scott (guitar). Either side of us is Rachel (sings, plays alto sax) and Julia (singer).
In between the two rows is Neil (lead guitar).
On the back row, on one side almost in the corner, is Sam (drummer). Along the back wall is the horns sections, which has four people. There’s Ashley (trumpet), Jerzy (tenor sax), Gareth (tenor sax) and Rob (trombone).
I’m the only person from the original set as in the very first gig there was nine of us and now there’s only me. I started the band and it’s been my band the whole time.
What are your hopes for the future?
I’d like to get out there a bit more to travel around more. We do very well in Sheffield, everyone knows us here. Anyone bothered about seeing a Ska band, has probably seen us by now. We have played in other areas: Manchester, Stockport, London. But I’d like to turn up in cities where no one’s ever seen or heard of us.
What can people expect from you this Sunday?
What we aim to do is put on this big show for a packed room full of people who have all turned up with a positive, friendly, ‘like to have fun’ kind of attitude.
Want to hear the history of Ska summarised in 2 minutes? Of course you do. So here’s the founder of Jungle Lion, Dave Campbell, with an insightful breakdown of the genre
Transcription for the video:
First, the original ska bands were from 1963 or so, in Jamaica and this is why you have this whole ethno-musical history where there’s people taken from Africa as slaves and put in the Caribbean and the African music that they had in their home country then took on a separate evolution in the Caribbean and mixed together with the central and south American music.
There’s this huge mixing melting pot around there. In Jamaica the main kinds of music was mento and calypso for a bit but then the people in Jamaica were listening to music from Cuba, and they were listening to music from united states and they were mixing those styles into Calypso which grown from the African.
You’ve got elements from American jazz and also Cuban band music with lots of horns and it’s also very rhythmic and dancing. There’s a strong culture of singing as well in Jamaica, you’ve got people singing in church all the time. Your very early Bob Marley stuff is ska music as opposed to reggae.
And then that was happening in Jamaica for a while and of course people from Jamaica and Caribbean were coming over to England to come over and work in industry so then they kind of made a connection with the working class people in England. And you have your original skin heads from like 1968 and they all really like reggae and ska music.
You have your triginal ska, this slowly slows down, turns into bluebeat and lovers’ rock and rocksteady, and then you have the influence of the Rastafarians, they come in as the ska music slows down in tempo and this becomes reggae music and then in the UK, sort of 76, 77, you have punk music happens.
And then 1978, 79, people start mixing back with ska music and the sort of most famous example of this was Jerry Dammers, a keyboard player who formed The Specials. And then you have this whole thing, this is like the two-tone, the second wave of ska music.
A lot of people who come and see us were teenagers in the end of the 70s and so the music they grew up with is The Spatial and Madness and Bad Manners, stuff like that. So we do a lot of songs by those guys. A lot of the people who now are 50-odd will come and see us and they’re like this is our music, this is what we grew up with.