Brit funk

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Brit funk is a musical style that has its origins in the British music scene of the late 1970s-1980s. It mixes elements from jazz, funk, urban dance rhythms and pop hooks. The scene originated in southern England and spread with support from DJs including Chris Hill and Colin Curtis. Major acts included Light of the World, Level 42, Central Line, Beggar and Co, Freeez and Linx. The genre influenced 1980s pop groups such as Haircut 100, Culture Club, Wham!, Pigbag and Spandau Ballet and started the trend for football style chanting in clubs.

Name and characteristics[edit]

The term Brit funk evolved from the club DJs and James Hamilton of Record Mirror whose column had a major influence in launching new records. Brit funk was a fusion of jazz, funk, urban dance rhythms and pop hooks. Pioneers of this sound, groups Hi Tension and Light of the World, had a British twist to their instrumentation and vocals,[1] avoiding American accents.


The British funk scene developed from the Home Counties, principally Essex at Lacy Lady in Ilford and The Goldmine on Canvey Island,[2] along with clubs such as Crackers in London. In the South DJ Chris Hill and his Funk Mafia were pioneers, and in the North Colin Curtis, among others, were instrumental in its growth in popularity.[1]

With support from the club disc jockeys and labels such as Ensign Records and Elite Records, artists including Light of the World, Level 42 enjoyed chart success and made regular appearances on BBC's flagship pop programme Top of the Pops.[1] The first hit was "Hi Tension" by Hi Tension.[3] The biggest hits in the genre were "British Hustle" by Hi Tension (which reached number 8 in 1978) and "Southern Freeez" by Freeez (which reached number 8 in 1981).[3] Light of the World split and members formed Beggar and Co and Incognito.[3]

Hits in the US by black British artists in this period included Linx, Loose Ends, David Joseph, Imagination and Junior Giscombe.[4] With DJs gaining cult status, the scene also created many 'club hits' which never achieved commercial success.[1] Many British based soul and dance bands found themselves merging under the Brit funk banner. These included Central Line and Second Image.[1]


1980s pop groups such as Haircut 100 and Wham! tapped into the style and sound to help launch their careers.[1] This scene was significant in reducing racial boundaries in the clubs and raised the profile of black and white musicians working together, notably Spandau Ballet who collaborated with Beggar and Co to produce the classic pop song "Chant Number One". During the success of the jazz and Brit funk period, "chanting" became popular in discothèques and nightclubs. This football crowd style of interacting with the music continues in British clubs today.[1]

Inspired by soul, jazz, hip-hop and funk, Brit funk exploded onto the scene in the 1980s, one of the first times black artists (primarily of Caribbean descent) received mainstream success in the UK. However, what separated these British artists from Americans is widely debated. Some theories include a unique British wit/humor, inspiration from Euro fashion, stripped down aesthetics, and accents. However, a popular theory is that Brit funk’s success in the British mainstream is due to its classification as pop music with lighter themes that are less concerned with the politics and identity found in reggae. Songs like Linx “You’re Lying”(1980) and Beggar and Co “Somebody Help Me Out[5]”(1981), Central Line "Walking into Sunshine"(1981) appealed to those who wanted either relationship or sociopolitical commentary. Major labels’ choices to market mostly love songs marked a larger gender divide. It was incredibly rare to find female musicians; however, female vocalists were often essential to the integration of “soul” vibes into the funky melody. Beyond this vocally feminine sound, the way consumers heard Brit funk, the way it was musicked in spaces, shifted as the role of live performance joined the popularity of the 1970s DJ in clubs. By the 1980s, it was common for clubs to bring in Brit funk performers alongside DJs incorporating both an open and intimate space on the dancefloor. Brit funk was marked by these dualities: feminine and masculine, pleasure and politics, exclusionary and accessible.[6]

Notable bands[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Feel the Chant: The Brit Funk Story", 16 March 2013, retrieved 12 January 2014.
  2. ^ "Goldmine - The Club History". Retrieved 16 December 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c D. Simpson, "The scenes that time forgot", The Guardian home, retrieved 12 January 2014.
  4. ^ N. Zuberi, Sounds English: Transnational Popular Music (University of Illinois Press, 2001), ISBN 0252026209, p. 135.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Strachan, Robert. John Stratton, Nabeel Zuberi, Black Popular Music in Britain Since 1945. Routledge, 2016.