Happy hardcore, also known as happy rave, happycore or happy gabber, is a genre of hard dance typified by a very fast tempo (usually around 160–190 BPM), often coupled with solo vocals or sentimental lyrics. Its characteristically 4/4 beat "happy" sound distinguishes it from most other forms of hardcore, which tend to be "darker". It is typically in a major key. In its original incarnation, it was often characterized by piano riffs, synthetic stabs and spacey effects. This genre of music is closely related to the typically Dutch genre of gabber. Happy hardcore evolved from breakbeat hardcore around 1991–1993, as the original house music-based rave became faster and began to include breakbeats, evolving into oldschool jungle which evolved into drum and bass. Some of the most famous artists of this genre include Brisk and Ham, Scott Brown, Force and Styles, Sy and Unknown, Hixxy, DJ Paul Elstak, Anabolic Frolic, Dune, Scooter, Critical Mass, Stu Allan (a.k.a. VISA), Vibes, Dougal, Slipmatt, DJ Sharkey, DJ Seduction .
Early hardcore producers such as SL2, Prodigy, Hyper-On Experience, DJ Jonny L and Sonz of a Loop da Loop Era, along with record labels such as Moving Shadow, Reinforced, XL and Formation evolved in a period where Techno was developing a harder edge, exploring the complex breakbeats that would later manifest themselves as jungle and the subsequent development of drum and bass. The stylistic influence of techno including the movie, cartoon and media samples, and powerful synthesizer-based breakdowns characterised this earlier form of UK hardcore, which some[who?] believed to have hit its first peak in 1992.
UK Hardcore is a genre of music which evolved from and incorporates sound elements from happy hardcore. UK Hardcore has a characteristically "harder" style and less break-beat associated with the happy hardcore music of the 1990s.
With the diversity in sound available to producers rising with the onset of progressively more advanced computer and music production systems, electronic music was evolving at a rapid pace during this period. Hardcore, techno, and drum and bass began to split during this intense period of creativity, spinning off the genres ragga and darkside.
The United Kingdom-based rave hardcore scene of the 1990s encompassed several native styles through the years, techno and hardcore being the respective dominant genres in the North and South of the country for much of this period.
Happy hardcore evolved from hardcore music in the early 1990s. Its characteristic 4/4 beat "happy" sound distinguishes it from most other forms of hardcore. The term 'UK hardcore' refers to the evolution of the happy hardcore sound and is not a general term for hardcore (gabber or techno) that comes from the UK.
Through a combination of factors, hardcore had taken a new musical direction towards the latter half of the 1990s. It now had little musical resemblance to its origins, generally becoming more vocal-based and at times producing cover versions of popular songs. This sound attracted a younger audience in the UK. Elsewhere at this time, this particular sound had found a new worldwide audience in places such as Australia, Canada, Japan and the United States.
Hardcore also received its own special in 2004 on BBC Radio 1 entitled John Peel Is Not Enough named after a CLSM track of the same name.
Nowadays (post-2000), the UK hardcore rave scene is a thriving scene with many producers, DJs, MCs and labels. UK hardcore is seen as an underground genre, but recent albums such as the Clubland X-treme Hardcore series have exposed the music to a more commercial audience. It is known that the younger generation of ravers are enjoying the hardcore music scene and will continue to progress and become much more mainstream than when it originally came from clubs.
2009 saw DJ Kutski land his own show on Radio 1. Along with various other harder styles, UK hardcore receives much air time and the show continues to grow from strength to strength. The show has had the likes of CLSM as live guests, and a range of guest mixes. While the genre remains very much an underground style of music, its receiving crucial mainstream air time. 2011, however, has seen the closure of a number of labels, such as the veteran Freeform label; Nu Energy Collective, coupled with the end of the infamous Freeformation events. Kevin Energy and DJ Sharkey also announced their retirements, which stirred some worry amongst the community about the decline in popularity for hardcore. Nevertheless, other hardcore labels such as Evolution and Quosh have celebrated their milestone 100th releases.