The origins of house music stem from DJs remixing and recycling old vinyl, the sheer diversity of which led to many early variants of house. Tribal house is one such example. DJs from New York clubs like Sound Factory and Roxy NYC borrowed polyrhythmic percussion from old crates of world music to establish tribal house. By the early 90s, artists like Danny Tenaglia and Junior Vasquez were releasing globally popular tribal house music. More recently, labels like MIDH (Madorasindahouse) spread contemporary tribal house music through deep and progressive house releases.
The main influence in tribal house is polyrhythmic percussion stemming from world music, specifically of Latin and African origin. Because tribal house refers to any house music that has a more complex percussive rhythm, other influences often range drastically from one song or artist to the next.
Tribal house incorporates a wide range of sounds, from fun and uplifting, to heavy and dark. The tribal house sound palette, much like its influences, is tough to nail down. But the one element that binds all of the varying songs together is the prevalence of indigenous drums (particularly conga drums) and indigenous instruments not typically heard in mainstream genres. Tribal house rhythm is also often fused with deep house, progressive house, Dutch house, moombahton, and tropical house.
New York, 1993
Progressive house expands its sound palette with the addition of indigenous percussion on this early remix by rising house star Danny Tenaglia.
Danny Tenaglia – “Elements (The Chant)”
New York, 1997
Tenaglia was voted Best International DJ in 2001 by the International Dance Awards and it’s not hard to see why as he consistently released unique and slickly produced tracks like this one.
BlackCoffee & Busi Mhlongo – “Izizwe”
The sound of a bongo hit on every second kick drum is a very popular rhythm associated with the genre and Izizwe by Black Coffee offers a great example of this.
Da Capo & Berita – “Found You”
Dreamy pop vocals and a clean production bring out Da Capo’s unique style in “Found you”.
Jenia Tarsol & Jinga – “Takadoom”
Tel Aviv, 2019
A stomping house beat with flourishes of indigenous percussion, trippy vocals and throbbing synths makes this a great example of old and new tribal coming together.