The sub-genre of house music known as “Tribal House” first surfaced in the 1990s. It evolved from the Garage House and Deep House eras. It also absorbed elements from Latin House and the percussion-based Hispanic-American and African music genres.

Tribal house developed and became well-known in the New York City scene at venues like Sound Factory and Roxy NYC. However, several recordings from the beginning of the 90s hinted at the sound. Junior Vasquez was the main innovator with his releases “X” and “If Madonna Calls.” Also, Danny Tenaglia, Reel 2 Real, Armand Van Helden, and River Ocean helped spread the genre mainstream. This happened through hit songs like “I Like to Move It,” “Witch Doktor,” and “Elements.”

Tribal America Records and Strictly Rhythm Records both released a lot of early Tribal House works. This genre helped create the Ballroom sub-genre and connected with the ball culture. The LGBT population also embraced it noticeably.

The genre eventually extended to several local scenes throughout the world in the decades that followed. The emphasis on LGBT groups and circuit parties remained. Sounds from various worldwide DJs, including Mark Stereo, DJ Ghosty, Tommy Love, Yinon Yahel, Mauro Mozart, and Rafael Starcevic & Liu RosaIts, represent this genre.

Tribal house in Recent Times

Currently, Tribal House stands as the most popular dance music style in the Circuit scene, which consists of massive dance festivals comparable to raves that take place all over the world. The sound of this style inspired and spilled over into other genres, such as Hardgroove.

Influenced by this genre, Tech House, Progressive House, and Psytrance developed their own “tribal” strains. Tribal House also influenced UK Funk, particularly its later spin-off, Hard Drum, which combines tribal house and UK Garage elements. 

This genre is distinguished by its unique, more intricate, and powerful syncopated rhythms. It incorporates percussions such as congas, toms, and bongos over a four-to-the-floor house beat. Additionally, chanting and ululation are frequent elements of this genre. It produces an energizing, drum-centric sound with an emphasis on polyrhythmic percussions. Few melodies are used in this genre, ranging from upbeat and cheerful to dark and aggressive.

For related articles, check out: