|This article relies too much on references to primary sources. (May 2015)|
|Stylistic origins||Miami bass, electro-funk, freestyle, hip hop, Brazilian music|
|Cultural origins||Mid-1980s, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil|
|Typical instruments||Drum machine, turntable, sampler, synthesizer, vocal|
|Proibidão - Melodic funk|
"Baile funk", in Brazil, refers not to the music, but to the actual parties or discothèques in which the music is played. Although originated in Rio, funk carioca has become increasingly popular amongst working classes in other parts of Brazil. In the whole country, funk carioca is most often simply known as funk, although it is very different musically from what funk means in most other places.
Funk was once a direct derivative of Miami bass and freestyle (another Miami-based genre) music from the United States. The reason why these genres, very localized in the USA, became popular and influential in Rio de Janeiro is due to proximity. Miami was a popular plane stop for Rio DJs to buy the latest American records.
The funk popularized in the 1980s in Rio de Janeiro's favelas, the city's slums. From mid-1990s it was a mainstream phenomenon in Brazil. Funk songs discuss topics as varying as poverty, human dignity, racial pride of black people, sex (breaking its moral values), violence and social injustice. Social analysts believe that the funk is a genuine expression of the severe social issues falling on the poor and black people in Rio.
The rhythms of funk in its early days were mostly loops of electronic drums from Miami bass or freestyle records, while a few artists composed them with actual drum machines. The most common drum beat was a loop of DJ Battery Brain's "808 volt", commonly referred to as "Voltmix", though Hassan's "Pump Up The Party" is also notable. Nowadays, funk rhythms are mostly based on tamborzão rhythms instead of the older drum machine loops.
Melodies are usually sampled. Older songs typically chopped up freestyle samples for the melody, or had none at all. Modern funk uses a set of samples from various sources, notably horn and accordion stabs, as well as the horn intro to the "Rocky" theme. Funk music has always used a small catalog of rhythms and samples which almost all songs take from (commonly with several in the same song). Funk carioca songs can either be instrumental or include rapping, singing, or something in between the two.
In February 11, 2001, the first U.S. reference to the music itself was made by Neil Strauss in the New York Times newspaper, recognizing it as a distinct musical genre, and along with Kwaito music in South Africa, one of the first new genres of electronic, street dance music to have become important outside North America and Europe.
There are some derivatives and different music expressions of funk carioca.
Proibidão is a derivative of funk related to prohibited practices, reason for its name (Proibidão, in English, "Very Prohibited"). The content of such funks involves the selling of illegal drugs and the war against law enforcement agencies, as well as the praise for a determinate Drug Cartel.
Recognition in Europe
Until the year 2000, funk carioca was only a regional phenomenon. Then the European media began to report its peculiar combination of music, social issues with a strong sexual appeal.
In 2001, for the first time, baile funk tracks appeared on a non-Brazilian label. The album was named Favela Chic by BMG and contained three old-school funk carioca hits, including the song Popozuda Rock n' Roll by De Falla.
In 2003, the tune Quem Que Caguetou (Follow Me Follow Me) by Black Alien & Speed, not a big hit in Brazil, was then used in a sports car advertisement in Europe, and it helped spread the word about baile funk. Berlin music journalist and DJ Daniel Haaksman released the seminal CD-compilations Rio Baile Funk Favela Booty Beats in 2004, and More Favela Booty Beats 2006 through Essay Recordings Germany. He launched the international career of "Popozuda Rock n´Roll" artist Edu K, whose baile funk anthem was used in a soft drink TV advertisement in Germany. Haaksman continued to produce and distribute many new baile funk records, especially the EP series "Funk Mundial" and "Baile Funk Masters" on his label Man Recordings.
In 2004, dance clubs from Eastern Europe, mainly Romania and Bulgaria, increased the popularity of funk due to the strong sexual appeal of the music and dance, also known as Bonde das Popozudas. Many Rio funk artists started to do shows abroad at that time. DJ Marlboro and Favela Chic Paris club were the pioneer travellers/producers. The funk carioca production was until then limited to playing in the ghettos and the Brazilian pop market. DJ Marlboro, a major composer of funk carioca's tunes declared in 2006 in the Brazilian "Isto É magazine" how astonished he was with the sudden overseas interest in the genre. He traveled in over 10 European countries.
In London, artists Tetine have also assembled an important pioneer compilation in 2004, Slum Dunk Presents Funk Carioca mixed by Tetine, by Mr Bongo Records. In Italy, Irma Records released the 2005 compilation Colors Music #4: Rio Funk. Many small European (notably Arcade Mode) and American (Flamin´Hotz, Nossa) labels released several compilations and EPs in bootleg formats.
The artist M.I.A. brought mainstream international popularity to Brazilian funk with her single Bucky Done Gun released in 2005, and attention to US-based Diplo who worked as the song's producer. He had worked on M.I.A.'s 2004 mixtape Piracy Funds Terrorism in addition to the tracks Baile Funk One, Baile Funk Two, and Baile Funk Three. Diplo made a 2004 bootleg mix CD Favela On Blast after finding Ivanna Bergese compiled remix-tapes of her performance act Yours Truly. He also produced documentary Favela on Blast, which was released in July 2010 and documents the role, culture, and character of funk carioca in Rio's favelas.
Other indie video-documentaries have been made in Europe, especially in Germany and Sweden. These generally focused on the social issues in the favelas. One of the most famous of these series of documentaries is Mr Catra the faithful (2005) by Danish filmmaker Andreas Rosforth Johnsen, broadcast by many European open and cable television channels.
London-based artist Sandra D'Angelo was the first Italian singer-producer to bring Baile funk to Italy. She performed in London with Mc Gringo at Notting Hill Arts Club in 2008. She performed her baile funk productions for the contest Edison Change the Music in 2008. Sandra D'Angelo performed Baile Funk also in New York and produced tracks with EDU KA (Man Recordings) and DJ Amazing Clay from Rio.
In 2008, Berlin label Man Recordings released Gringão, the debut album by German MC Gringo — the only non-Brazilian MC performing in the bailes of Rio de Janeiro.
In Brazil, funk carioca lyrics are often criticized due to their violent and sexually explicit, as well as misogynistic content - the degradation of women as objects for sex is a recurring theme in funk carioca. Girls are called "cachorras" (bitches) and "popozudas" - large asses, and many songs revolve around casual and degrading sex practices with them. "Novinhas" (young/underaged girls) as sexual objects are also a frequent theme in funk songs. Some of these songs, however, are ironically sung by women.
The extreme banalization of sex and the incitement of promiscuity is viewed as a negative aspect of the funk culture. Besides the moral considerations, in favelas, where sanitary conditions are poor and sex education low, this might lead to public health and social issues. In such communities, definitive contraceptive methods are hardly available and due to lack of education and awareness, family planning is close to nonexistent. This environment results in unwanted pregnancies, population overgrowth, and eventually the growth of the communities (favelização).
The glamorization of criminality in the favelas is also frequently viewed as another negative consequence of funk carioca. Some funk songs, belonging to a style known as "proibidão" ("the forbidden"), have very violent lyrics and are sometimes composed by drug-dealing gangs. Its themes include praising the murders of rival gang members and cops, intimidating opposers, claiming power over the favelas, robbery, drug use and the illicit life of drug dealers in general. Authorities view some of these lyrics as "recruiting" people to organized crime and inciting violence, and playing some of these songs are thus considered a crime.
Due to the lack of regulation and the locations where they usually take place, "bailes funk" are also very crime prone environments. They are popular hot spots for drug trade and consumption, dealers display power frequenting the parties heavily armed, and even murder rates are high.
More popular funk artists usually compose two different sets of similar lyrics for their songs: one gentler, more "appropriate" version, and another with a harsher, cruder set of lyrics (not unlike the concept of "clean" and "explicit" versions of songs). The first version is the one broadcast by local radio stations; the second is played in dance halls, parties, and in public by sound cars. Recurrent lyric topics in funk carioca are explicit sexual positions, the funk party, the police force, and the life of slum dwellers in the favelas. Another large part of the lyrics is the use of the world around them - mainly the poverty that has enveloped the area. This is usually denounced in the lyrics and the hope for a better life is carried through many of their messages.
However, while they do talk about violence and crime, the lyrics of funk carioca songs do not advocate sexual violence. Additionally, while funk carioca frequently makes references to sexuality, it often employs euphemisms instead of bold statements.
With its recent success in Europe, it is also criticized that Brazil is exporting music that is much inferior compared to the bossa nova and the Brazilian rock that was made famous in the 1950s. It has been rumored that most of the funk projects in favelas are also financially backed by drug lords, thereby some lyrics deal much with challenging the police and law.
Defenders of funk argue that the genre is an authentic expression of the culture of Afro-Brazilian communities, and the sexual lyrics reflect sexual freedom in Brazilian society. Some sociologists say that such content reflects the life of the impoverished people who lack protection and better conditions due to insufficient state involvement in the favelas.
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