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Donkey Kong Country – “DK Jungle Swing” (David Wise)

February 3, 2010

I thought it was about time for some more Donkey Kong Country (1995) music, so here’s the famous “DK Island Swing” by David Wise.

Donkey Kong Country – “DK Jungle Swing” (David Wise)

“DK Island Swing” is perfect jungle music. The song is a mix of jungle music and lounge, recalling Congo-themed lounges with jazz bands from the 1930s, 40s and 50s (think King Kong, too!). David Wise channeled some excellent source material for this. The jungle drums are here in full force, capturing the activity of the jungle and urging the player into action to explore this lush environment. While in some respects, I think the song also channels latent colonialist narratives of Western (particularly British) interpretations of the African jungles, it’s not restless natives – it’s really a wild monkey dance with swinging through the trees. The animal noises help break the lines between diagetic and nondiegetic audio – is the music really playing somewhere out there in the jungle? The second half of the song recalls rolling hills and rainforest, rivers rushing through verdant valleys, and sunset in the jungle.

It’s hard for me to pick which version I like best, but I ultimately went with David Wise’s original over Motoi Sakuraba‘s version from Super Smash Bros. Brawl, which was for the most part faithful to the original, but the sound just wasn’t in it. The original has a LOT more bass, the drums sound more wooden, and there’s a nice electric midi sound to the guitar, thanks to the SNES sound processor and the masterful work of David Wise and the Rareware audio programming team. Note this track also includes the Rareware logo theme, which kind of sounds like a gorilla banging its chest, now that I think of it! Ultimately, I think it was the music perhaps moreso than the graphics that really made that game -while the platforming is pretty generic, and the graphics were unique for the time, the audio lasts forever and will always sound this good.

There have been many other remixes of this song, attesting to the popularity of the original composition. However, it’s very difficult to do a version of the song without ‘parroting the original’ as the composers of Kong in Concert said. As such, most of the good ones are really just orchestrations of the original. Super Smash Bros. Melee (2001) had a remix that’s got a great swing to it. The Super Smash Bros. DX Concert (2002) rendition has a great orchestral arrangement with some fantastic jungle drums and jazz swing which also has a vaguely distinct Japanese feel to it. There was another orchestral arrangement on Game Music Concert 5 (OGC5) that implemented “Aquatic Ambiance”, the famous water music. JigginJonT did another good jazz remix for Kong in Concert by OCRemix, “West Coast DK Island” which is an audio feast and is the most original rendition.

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