Ten of my Favourite Donkey Kong Country Cover Songs
The Donkey Kong Country Series were some of the best games on the SNES, with ground breaking pre-rendered graphics, magical game play and possibly the greatest video game music of all time. Naturally this music has been covered and remixed ever since in many different ways. Grab some bananas and check out my favourite Donkey Kong Country cover songs.
1. Gang-Plank Galleon – GuitarWanker90
Gang-Plank Galleon is the sound track for the final battle in the original game with King K. Rool. This is a simple fight but still great fun and I would play it over and over again so that I could hear the music again. The most memorable part are the fake-out credits. I’m sure King K. Rool has caught out many players the first time they see him fake his death. Just like with Marvel movies, you should pay attention during the credits.
YouTube is awash with generic guitar covers of classic tunes. They are often indistinguishable and lack any personality. GuitarWanker90 does something very simple that transforms this cover. Switching between guitars really adds to the transitions between the phases of this boss fight. The original track already some good rock/metal vibes so it’s great to hear it played with real guitars.
2. Stroke the Thorny Wall – Vemix
Stickerbush Symphony is one of the most iconic tracks in the Donkey Kong series. For me Stickerbush Symphony is one of the best pieces of video game music of all time. It evokes so many feelings and emotions at the same time. There is a sense of wonder, discovery, adventure and mystery. I love how well it combines a feeling of tension with an upbeat vibe. It’s seems to be intense and relaxing at the same time in a way I can’t really explain. Somehow Vemix captures all of this in their remix. It’s so beautiful, it may even surpass the original song for it’s rich atmospheric sound.
3. Hot Head Bop – PPF
I usually prefer covers where artists add their own personal touch to song, creating a piece that combines the magic of the original song with something unique. PPF is the exception that breaks the rule. His attention to detail is extraordinary, not only mastering a wide variety of instruments but mixing them together to perfectly recreate the special atmosphere these games had. My favourite element in this song is using the bubbles to match the bubbling lava from the game. I had such a hard time choosing which PPF song to include on this list, so I have to include his cover of Mining Melancholy as a bonus. This includes a lot more inventive instruments including pans, pipes and a flip flop.
4. Aquatic Ambience – Andrew De Lange
In a bygone age, platformers were one of the most prominent genre on consoles. Mario, Sonic, Donkey Kong etc. To add variety they all added water levels that were painfully slow and the controls would be awkward. Water levels were usually boring, but Donkey Kong stood out because the water levels were a treat. Colourful coral reef visuals combined with a rich soundscape mean you can just put down the controller and relax to the music. When I realised that Donkey Kong was the only platformer where I liked the water levels was when I appreciated how good the music is the Donkey Kong games.
More than any other Donkey Kong track this is perfect for an orchestral cover. Andrew De Lange’s cover is so peaceful and brings back great memories. He has also remixed a number of other Donkey Kong tracks so check out his youtube channel for more great covers.
5. Roller Disco (Disco Train) – Zylance / OC ReMix
I’m not the only one who loves video game music covers. There are some wonderful online communities built around creating and sharing remixes. Overclocked Remix has been going strong for twenty years and they have built up a humongous collection of video game remixes that are all free. This track in particular comes from the album Serious Monkey Business, which contains nothing but remixes of 35 Donkey Kong Country 2 tracks.
My favourite levels in the Donkey Kong Country games were always the mine cart levels and they always had music to match the fun gameplay. The remix is even more fun and upbeat than the original. The intro is perfect and the added Kong and Kremlin sounds add the end make me laugh every time.
6. Encounter In The Abyss – Vincent Rubinetti
What did I say about water levels being slow and relaxing? Scrap that. The Donkey Kong series kept water level designs fresh and interesting with novel gimmicks. My favourite was Lava Lagoon where the lava can be temporarily turned into water.
After having had a gentle introduction to water levels with the tranquil sounds of Aquatic Ambience, Lava Lagoon’s music is a shock to the system. Forced to swim quickly before the water turns back into lava, this is level is a race against the clock. David Wise gave us an exhilarating soundtrack to reflect this. But in Vincent Rubinetti’s hands it becomes something even more intense. The intro is especially memorable, sounding like something from a horror movie.
7. Gang-Plank Galleon – TsukoG (Kazoo)
Kazoos are funny, but the fun wears off quickly. It takes a lot for a Kazoo cover to hold my attention, but TsukoG has what it takes. Part of a long running series of video game covers called Kazoo’d this track shows what a Kazoo master TsukoG is. Gang-Plank Galleon is a complex and break-neck piece that should sound awful played on a kazoo. In fact there’s a tense balance between the menacing tune and the comical instrument which I find so beautiful.
I thought I hated kazoo covers but now I just appreciate how difficult they are to do. Watching each track individually shows how much concentration goes into each element of the piece. Kazoos look like a simple child’s toy, but while they are easy to play, they are deceptively complex. You don’t blow into a kazoo, rather you hum into into it. Your voice makes the sound, so you need to be a good singer to be a good kazooist.
8. Smooth McGroove – Bramble Blast
If you read my previous post on zelda cover songs you won’t be surprised to see Smooth McGroove on this list. Smooth McGroove has managed to be prolific whilst consistently creating great covers. His unique style of a capella music is so relaxing, its remarkable how different this is to the Vemix cover of the same song. And once again I am in awe of how Smooth McGroove can make beautiful music with a few simple sounds. A “Bum Bum” here and a “Ba Ba” there is all he needs to recreate the music from your favourite video games.
9. Jib Jig (woodwind cover) – Field of Reeds
The music from the first level of a game is often the most memorable. Donkey Kong Country 2 is no different and starts with a beautiful and atmospheric soundtrack. With the sound of the wind and rain, you really feel like a pirate listening to this. Field of Reeds has created a faithful cover that sounds completely different. There are still some atmospheric effects and a pirate feel to the song, but using more wind instruments it sounds more like a traditional Irish jig. This is a wonderful re-imagining of a classic track.
10. Hot-Pursuit – Brendan Vavra / Pixel Mixers
Electro swing is a strange genre, fusing old and new into something unique. Mixing swing music and jazz with hip-hop and EDM, it’s a fun style of music and very easy to dance to. I also never expected it to work so well with video game music. Hot-Pursuit is the odd one out on this list as it comes from Donkey Kong Country 3. Donkey Kong Country 3 had a lot of interesting gimmicks and creative twists in each level. Hot-Pursuit comes from a race level and it’s a perfect fit for Electro swing.
Pixel Mixers is another community that makes a lot of great video game cover music. In fact this song comes from the album Treetop Tunes that you can listen to in full on youtube or download for free. Brendan has also done a few other Donkey Kong Covers on the accordion. This is the best thing about cover songs. When you find a good one, you usually find many other great covers to listen to.