Brazilian Funk

Funk Carioca is an entirely different beast to the funk music that originated in the United States in the middle of the soul movement during the 1970s. Funk Carioca was born in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro in the 1980s where it was heard every day blasting out of corners, alleyways and streets of the cities shanty towns.

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Funk Carioca is abrasive and infectious and the natural musical counterpart to the confluence of cultures and traditions that meet head on in the carioca favelas. If you are not Latin American, not under the age of 40 and prefer Bach to M.I.A. it’s possible you may not enjoy Funk Carioca. It sounds best pumped out of dodgy speakers in a dodgy funk baile nightclub, not exactly easy listening for your trans-Atlantic snooze.

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Funk CariocaThe original strains of funk carioca borrowed beats from Samba, Afro-Brazilian rhythms and electronic tunes picked up in Miami—often heavily draped with drum and bass—overlaid with rap lyrics. It caught fire in the infamous funk balls of the carioca favelas and spilled over into Rio’s mainstream clubs before being picked up by North American and European DJ’s who collected the rough tunes into polished compilations and then peddled their wares on the European and stateside dance scenes to a rapturous reception.

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Then MIA burst funk carioca into the anglophone mainstream with the single Bucky Done Gun off her album ‘Arular’ in 2004. The album was produced by the artist Diplo who has since gone on to produce his own documentary on the funk carioca scene titled Favela Done Blast—a recommendation for those who want to learn more about this type of music but be warned, subtitles are impossible to find so either scrub on your Portuguese or just sit back and enjoy with limited comprehension.

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As funk carioca grew in popularity some of the original carioca DJ’s started to get booked for gigs in Europe. One of whom was DJ Marlboro, who also features in the documentary Favela Done Blast. Unlike reggaeton, another bastion of Latin American nightclubs, funk carioca tackles topics as diverse as social inequality, street violence and the heavy hand of the Brazilian police as well as sex, drugs, money and alcohol.

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Funk CariocaThe inequality found in the city of Rio de Janeiro is breathtaking, visually—as you look up to the overhanging favelas from the tourist haven of ipanema beach—and literally there is a line drawn between the rich cariocas and the poor cariocas. As the music evolved in different directions the lyrical content began to categorize into areas such as funk probidão—prohibited funk—which deals with the drug trade and other shady dealings, and funk putaria—which likes to stick to the classical themes of sex, prostitutes and partying.

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Brazil today is a long way from the military rule of the 1980s which inspired funk carioca, and the changes in lifestyle have pushed a natural progression in Brazilian funk music. The funk balls of the favelas were commonly sponsored by narco-traffickers up until the invasion of the UPP and the start of the massive favela pacification scheme in the lead up to the World Cup and the Olympic Games.

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Some think this has led to the destruction of the traditional funk carioca underground scene whereas others laud the newfound security of funk ball regulations. Either way funk is evolving. The internet has swept across funk as it has with almost every other aspect of modern life and has taken over the discovery and distribution of new funk records, where before word-of-mouth, funk balls, and markets were the places to find new beats now it is online where kids go to check out the new artists.

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Funk ostenҫão, a movement born in São Paulo focuses on the new wealth of Brazil and derives much of its inspiration from united states hip-hop artists like Wiz Khalifa and Lil’ Wayne. The carioca Leo Justi has recently collaborated with M.I.A. on a remix of her song ‘Bad Girls’ but prefers to group his work closer to traditional funk carioca, leaving the bling and ostentatious videos for the paulista artists.

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