By Doug Gray, Senior Reporter
A Short History Of Baile Funk Part 3, Funk Enters The 21st Century
RIO DE JANEIRO – By the turn of the millennium Funk Carioca was slowly seeping out of Rio and Brazil and onto the playlists of those DJs with their ears to the ground, or who had been exposed to the sounds from within the Cidade Maravilhosa itself. What became evident to many Cariocas was that in not understanding the slang of the x-rated, violent lyrics, foreigners readily took the escapism of the beats and bailes to their hearts.
Mainland Europe was where it first landed, with tracks appearing on Frenchman Jérome Pigeon’s compilation in 2001, and followed by Rio Baile Funk Favela Booty Beats’, a collection put together by the German Daniel Haaksman in 2003.
Journalist Elle J Small was one of the first to get her hands on a promo copy and remembers the instant impression it made on her;
“I was like, ‘what the hell is this?’ – in a good way! It was the raw energy and the simplicity of the beats that I was attracted to. It was just before the whole Miami Bass revival started blowing up on the underground in London and people were getting into crunk and a lot of the 808-beat dancey hip hop tracks were big… so the timing was good”
On a trip to Rio covering the AfroReggae collective for the British press, Elle J had her first taste of a genuine Baile, which served only to further entrench her love for the music. It was then that she met the late Adriana Pitti, a legend on the scene and manager of Sany Pitbull, one of the pioneers of modern Funk and host of the legendary Carioca Funk Club.
As Pitti worked on convincing Elle J to return to London and put on her own Funk nights there, so M.I.A and Diplo were adapting the sound in the US to huge critical acclaim. M.I.A’s debut album in 2004 was an amalgam of sounds not previously heard together on one record, and the Carioca Funk inspirations of producer Diplo were clear for all to hear. Already in 2003 he had released the EP “Newsflash”, clearly inspired by the simple energy of the Rio sound – a passion that led him to make the independent film Favela On Blast all about the scene.
With the ease of file sharing and the advent of YouTube the problems accessing the music due to physical distance from Rio no longer mattered and the initial dribble of music out of Rio became an ever-growing wave. Whilst it enabled the music to spread to all corners of the globe, technology also brought about its own mini-revolution within the Funk community.
The DIY ethic of funk was already strong in Rio, but with the ability to burn CD’s and shoot cheap videos and post them online, so crazes once confined to individual communities spread across the city once internet access became more readily available.
In 2008, “Creu” by MC Creu became the first track to benefit from ‘the YouTube effect’, and one of the simplest tunes ever to come out of the scene became a massive hit. The lyrics cover the subject of the five stages of sex, and the accompanying dance naturally follows suit. Millions of hits on thousands of videos showing variations of the dance later, and, in MC Creu, Funk Carioca had its very first One Hit Wonder, his lyrics entering the everyday lexicon of the city’s teenagers.
Today, Funk’s Velha Guarda such as Mr Catra, DJ Marlboro and DJ Grandmaster Rafael still appear as much as they ever did, though regularly in the more mainstream parties such as Eu Amo Baile Funk.
A look down the list of another legend of the scene Sany Pitbull’s upcoming shows – including Golf Clubs, Art Museums and Boat Parties – shows just how far the music has crossed over and is gaining widespread recognition.
Whether or not in 2010 the scene reverts back underground and morphs once more into something new and vital is hard to say. Sany Pitbull is following the Timbaland model of splicing genres and sub genres together and his sound is certainly no longer pure Funk Carioca in the traditional sense, with Trance and Rave all thrown in to the mix to thrilling effect.
What is certain is that despite standing way down the pecking order in the hearts of those still determined that Samba, MPB and Forro remain the sound of Brazil, Funk has arrived in the mainstream and is as culturally significant as any of those genres to the new breed of party-goers.