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Jungle Jazz

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Now I'm the king of the swingers, oh,
The jungle V.I.P.
I've reached the top and had to stop
And that's what's botherin' me!

As with most settings, jungles tend to have certain types of music associated with them. Think of a jungle, and you might imagine tribal drums, maybe some exotic instruments like the panflute or kalimba... but sometimes, you get swingy and brassy music instead.

Perhaps this is because jungles are perceived as colorful and diverse environments, which makes them conducive to some fun and catchy jazz. Or perhaps it's because jazz tends to be a free-flowing and improvisational style of music, which can remind people of the irregular sounds of nature. Expect to see jungle animals such as monkeys, birds, elephants, or others as musicians. When animal musicians appear, an elephant will likely play on its trunk like a trumpet or saxophone, and monkeys or apes will drum on tree trunks, coconuts or their own chest. A crocodile's teeth may be played like a xylophone. "Swing" is both a type of jazz, and what monkeys and apes do on vines.

The association may also have something to do with how in the 1920s and '30s, some racists dismissed all jazz as "jungle music", and jazz bands responded by owning that particular nickname. Of course, the romanticized notion of the jungle was also pretty popular at that time (see for example King Kong (1933) and the Tarzan films), so jazz bands and Tin Pan Alley songwriters were more than happy to milk that trend for all it was worth. Jazz music may also be associated with jungles because it was created by musicians of African descent, whose original homeland is stereotypically imagined as untamed tropical wilderness. This trope may overlap with Creepy Jazz Music if it is associated with that kind of jungle, and if the music sounds fittingly scary, but more often this music is kind of fun and frolicking.

For more musical location associations, see Steel Drums and Sunshine, Snowy Sleigh Bells, Waltz on Water, and Regional Riff.


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    Films — Animation 
  • The Jungle Book (1967), like with a few other Disney films, contains some upbeat jazz numbers, in this case sung by the more fun-loving jungle animals. Most noteworthy are "Bare Necessities" sung by Baloo the sloth bear, and "I Wan'na Be Like You," sung by King Louie and his apes. The latter was sung by Louis Prima, who also lent his name to Canon Foreigner King Louie as well as played him. Prima also played the Trumpet Solo whiles his band, Sam Beutera and the Witnesses, performed the initial lyrics. The scat exchange between Louie and Baloo was originally supposed to be Baloo repeating Louie's scat, but actor Phil Harris' improvised Scat impressed Prima enough to be included in the song. The soundtrack version has Beutera in the role of Baloo and merely repeating the scat of Prima's Louie. The sequel adds the jazzy ensemble number "Jungle Rhythm".
  • In Tarzan, "Trashin' The Camp" is a jazzy, scatting musical number sung by a band of gorillas (and one elephant). It's the only song in the movie performed by on-screen characters rather than an off-screen Phil Collins.

  • Chick Webb and His Orchestra also used the alias The Jungle Band to release one single: "Jungle Mamma" (with "Dog Bottom" as the b-side).
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra released a number of jazz singles with titles like "Jungle Jamboree", "Echoes of the Jungle", "Jungle Nights in Harlem", "Jungle Blues", and even "The Air-Conditioned Jungle". His album collaboration with Charles Mingus and Max Roach was titled Money Jungle. (Of course, some of those titles blur the line between a literal tropical forest and the "urban jungle".) And when contractual obligations prevented Duke from releasing music under his own name, one alias his group used was The Jungle Band.
  • Kool & the Gang's "Jungle Jazz" is an instrumental jazz cover of their own song "Jungle Boogie".
  • Osibisa were a band formed in London in The '70s by expat West Africans from Ghana and Nigeria. Their music was a fusion of jazz/rock with African themes and beats. Despite having a healthy following for their live gigs, record companies took the position that African music would take off in Britain with all the likelihood of an elephant flying. Their first album was a best-seller. Sure enough, there was a flying elephant - which became the band's mascot - on the cover. Listen here.
  • The 1947 song "Civilzation" (performed by such artists as Louis Prima, but Fallout fans will be most familiar with the version by Danny Kaye and the Andrews Sisters) is a jazzy tune about a Congolese native mocking some missionaries and their attempts to preach the benefits of Western civilization.
    Bongo, bongo, bongo, I don't wanna leave the Congo
    Oh no, no, no, no
    Bingle, bongle, bungle, I'm so happy in the jungle
    I refuse to go
    Don't want no penthouse, bathtub, streetcars, taxis, noise in my ear
    So no matter how they coax me, I'll stay right here!

    Theme Parks 
  • The Jungle Cruise queues typically feature jazzy music broadcast over a period radio which is tuned to the dock's radio station, hosted by "The Voice of the Jungle" Adam Awol. The rides are all designed with a Pulp Jungle setting in mind.
  • "it's a small world" has a "listen closely or you'll miss it" moment of this. The very end of the African Room features the titular song played in this swingin' style by children sitting on the tusks of an elephant.

    Video Games 

    Western Animation 
  • The Betty Boop short "I'll Be Glad When You're Dead You Rascal You" involved Betty's adventures on a jungle expedition. Betty, Bimbo, and Koko the clown are menaced by tribe of cannibals—who are all caricatures of Louis Armstrong and His Orchestra (who also provide the cartoon's whole soundtrack).
  • The 1930 Bosko, the Talk-Ink Kid short "Congo Jazz" is about Bosko going to a jungle to hunt wild animals, but instead he ends up dancing and playing jazz music with them.


Video Example(s):


King Louie

King Louie gets down while trying to convince Mowgli to teach him the secret of man's fire.

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