When I first heard Drum and Bass music (and Jungle) around 1995, I thought I had heard the next great musical movement. The concepts were fresh and startling. It was a new way to think about rhythm and, to me, most major musical innovations, whether in jazz or hip hop, center around new musical thinking regarding rhythm. Back then it seemed like I could not hear a bad or inferior drum and bass track. They all seemed to point in new directions.
As time passed, the breakbeat revolution I thought would happen never really did (at least not in America) and eventually, D’n’B music became watered down as more and more people started making it. It’s probably true for any musical movement that catches fire and finds a greater audience. The pioneers that create the form produce the strongest music and set the benchmarks. This is not to say drum and bass as a form of music is dead, far from it, but the early years were truly remarkable.
This video by Nate Harrison is an exceptional discussion about a drum break that almost single-handedly launched the D&B form. It is called the “Amen” break because it is a 6-second sample or break from a song recorded in 1969 by a group named the Winstons. The song is called “Amen Brother”.
The video is long at 18 minutes and, though it is not overly interesting visually, it’s very well written with plenty of musical examples as well as many insightful cultural comments. If you have an interest in drum and bass or are making electronic music, you owe it to yourself to watch this video.
Towards the end of the video, the author also talks about how the drum and bass music which was powered by the Amen break has never been challenged by the copyright owners of the song Amen Brother. He goes on to point out how this act, essentially putting the sample in the public domain, led to the creation of a new art form.