I met Norpell just after a lecture at the 5 Blends Coffee House on Mill Road. He cycles into view with a large grin on his face and greets me warmly. Norpell is a second-year student studying philosophy and neuroscience at Caius, Deputy Head of Policy and editor at the Wilberforce Society, model, and outspoken advocate for Tibetan independence.

Fresh off a main stage set playing at Cambridge Junction, he is a mainstay of the Cambridge student dance music scene, synonymous with a trademark smile, gun fingers and energetic presence. As well as distinctive with his own brand of Jungle, layering complex, faced paced, erratic beats with elements of Reggae and Dancehall.

“Synonymous with a trademark smile, gun fingers and energetic presence”

I first came across Norpell DJ’ing for a friend’s college engagement party. Tucked into the corner of a College gatehouse, playing to a room of still slightly awkward freshers — turning a somewhat strange college party into what could have been a club dance floor in a matter of minutes.

Perched with a coffee overlooking Mill Road, he was full of passion and caffeine. I asked him what drew him to Jungle specifically. “I actually remember the moment I heard my first jungle song — it was then that I turned from a boy into a man”. Recalling a hazy party in his hometown of Hastings at the age of 18, he had a eureka moment. “Someone put on M-Beat (one of Jungle’s eminent producers), as soon as I recovered my senses I asked my mate for the song and that was the start of a beautiful relationship”.

His life prior to Cambridge is clearly a big influence on his music. He DJ’s on a set of decks given to him by a friend’s dad. He described him as an “old school Northern Acid-house head”, a DJ in the 90s rave scene. It seems fitting that Norpell carries on this legacy, (a DJ so inspired by the sounds and styles of a rave scene before his time), to be using equipment baptised in warehouse raves from the golden era.

I was curious to ask Norpell about what makes Cambridge particularly unfriendly to the Jungle scene. “It has remained a pretty London-centric genre (at least to the average person) and associated with the underground and therefore the racial and social backgrounds that tend to correlate with that, the very same social and racial backgrounds that I don’t think Cambridge represents”.

“The very same social and racial backgrounds that I don’t think Cambridge represents”

He seemed anxious to talk about misconceptions around the Jungle genre and its general perception around Cambridge: “when people ask me what I mix and I say jungle, I’m met by a look of bewilderment”. He argues that most people “try to bracket Jungle…smother it into DnB and raving”. He noted that people consider the genre to be simplistic, associated with drug use, and regarded with little appreciation of the distinctiveness of Jungle itself. “Jungle is one of the most culturally and musically sophisticated things to come out of the UK scene and it deserves a bit more credit than that”.

Norpell is especially disparaging about the majority of Cambridge nightlife. “Cambridge club nights are very musically uninteresting”, adding that the typical experience of being “in the smoking area of Revs with someone’s elbow in your right ear and someone’s kneecap in your left” wasn’t particularly to his liking. “Last term of last year, there was a Grandma Groove night and I think this particular grandma grooved a little bit too hard; there may be some personal reasons for maybe not wanting to meet a couple of bouncers again”.


Mountain View

The Gallagher Brothers of coffee: chatting to the Bould Brothers

It remains to be seen whether Norpell’s aversion to Revs is due to a lack of identification with the music, or whether he is simply banned. I decided not to press him further in case of bringing up some Grandma Groove-related trauma. I instead question whether there are any good alternatives. “On the surface, the Cambridge music scene is pretty homogenous but there are definitely pockets of the good stuff. Big shout out to ArcSoc, they’re doing the most to make an antidote to the usual Wednesday Revs”.

He adds that he is planning his own charity event to celebrate Tibetan New Year (begins on the 21st February) and to raise some funds for Tibetan charities. It seems an apt combination of Norpell’s passions; fresh off a Tibetan Buddhist retreat in Northern India in the Summer and with his own experiences of living in a Tibetan refugee settlement as a child with his Grandparents who fled to India to escape the Chinese invasion. Norpell is extremely passionate about Tibetan independence, and clearly wants to utilise his talents to do some good whilst showcasing an alternative side of Cambridge nightlife to more people.

Norpell leaves me with some recommendations to give me a better insight into the genre. As a clearly talented DJ, he is definitely someone to look out for in events around Cambridge. I’m left with both a strong desire to listen to some Jungle, and a crushing sense of inferiority. He is just so annoyingly cool.