|Stylistic origins||Funk, soul music, reggae|
|Cultural origins||Late 1970s, UK|
|Typical instruments||Bass guitar, electric guitar, drums, keyboards, Hammond organ, clavinet, synthesizer, horns, congas|
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, Shakatak and Freeez. The genre influenced 1980s pop groups such as Haircut 100, Wham and Spandau Ballet and started the trend for football style chanting in clubs.
Name and characteristics
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, avoiding American accents.
The British funk scene developed from the Home Counties, principally Essex, 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.
With support from the club disc jockeys and labels such as Ensign Records and Elite Records, artists including Light of the World, Level 42, Shakatak and Freeez enjoyed chart success and made regular appearances on BBC's flagship pop programme Top of the Pops. The first hit was "Hi Tension" by Hi Tension. 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). Light of the World split and members formed in Beggar and Co and Incognito.
Hits in the US by black British artists in this period included Linx, Loose Ends, David Joseph, Imagination and Junior Giscombe. With DJs gaining cult status, the scene also created many 'club hits' which never achieved commercial success. Many British based soul and dance bands found themselves merging under the Brit funk banner. These included Central Line and Second Image.
1980s pop groups such as Haircut 100 and Wham tapped into the style and sound to help launch their careers. 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.
- Beggar and Co
- Central Line
- Paul Hardcastle
- Hi Tension
- I Level
- Level 42
- Light of the World
- Loose Ends
- The Real Thing