The time is roughly an hour until sunrise; however, the only lights you can see are red, blue, green, and are flashing on the dance floor in different patterns. First, the lights are circles, then they become fuzzy as they change, illuminating the cup in your hand just enough to see that you need to get another caipirinha from the bar. The lights are in sync with the music bumping through the speakers. Not a single set of hips throughout the club were still; all of them simultaneously moving to the fast-paced beat of the music. This type of music is called funk. Also known as funk carioca, favela funk, or baile funk — this is a genre of music originating in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. This type of music is influenced by African music and Miami bass, a genre of hip hop music that became popular in the eighties and nineties. Even though this type of music began in Rio de Janeiro, its popularity has become widespread throughout the country. Funk’s popularity rose during the eighties in the Favelas, the slums of Rio. By the nineties, funk was being played in all of the hottest nightclubs, becoming a Brazilian mainstream phenomenon. The lyrics of the songs address a multitude of themes such as poverty, sex, violence, and social injustices. Being rooted in the favelas, funk has become a means of talking about social injustices that plague poor, black neighborhoods, while exploring artists’ journeys and resistance.
As previously mentioned, funk has origins in both African music and “Miami bass”. Mano Teko, president of APAFUNK, an association that defends the interests of funkeiros (funk artists/fans), stated: “Funk music was a statement of Afro-Brazilian identity, as well as a struggle for cultural rights. It was the only opportunity for the oppressed to raise their voice and sometimes it still is (Vanhee, Tine).” The legacy of slavery in Brazil is much more prevalent than in the States. As discussed in class, the number of slaves in Brazil was far more significant than in the U.S. and many Brazilians today connect with their African roots due to the proximity, therefore much of their African culture stated with them. Funk is known for its drums and background sounds which are said to be inspired by African music. Because Miami is a popular stopping point for Brazilians traveling into the U.S., and many Brazilian DJs returned home with the newest American sounds for the funkeiros. “Rio funk customizes raw, bombastic Miami rhythms with percussive loops of samba drums and a lively and unrelenting Brazilian rapping style (Ghetto Fabulous).” Funk is the ultimate story of what it means to “start from the bottom.” Breaking out of the favelas and sweeping across the country, funk’s attractiveness has allowed it to cross borders into Europe and the U.S. Popular electronic and hip hop artists such as M.I.A. and Diplo, have featured funk artists and sounds on their records. In today’s media, the idea of creating “something from nothing” has become dreamy and intoxicating. This has had a strong influence throughout the world, especially in Europe which has led to the establishment of businesses dedicated to this movement of blending different styles and starting anew. For example, in Paris there is a club called “Favela Chic”.
The evolution of funk is incredibly significant because it demonstrates the evolution of a displaced society and the people’s integration into this new place throughout time. DJ Marlboro is credited to the one of the pioneers of funk. When the genre was first created, the lyrics were addressing artists’ struggles. For example, “Rap das Armas” is a funk song that came out in the nineties by brothers and funk duo, MC Júnior e Leonardo. The song was initially perceived as a praise to the beautiful people of Rio, but later evolved to be a protest song focusing on urban violence. You can listen to the song here. Fame has been kind to them and significantly improved their impoverished living conditions. This progression has been evident in today’s lyrics of funk as well. Originally, the lyrics were protesting their social injustices; whereas, now they are reveling in their new societal rank. The conversation in the lyrics has shifted to talking about gold chains, expensive cars such as Mercedes Benz, and sexual relations with models. However, in an interview, a well-known funk artist, Juca, stated, “‘The best way to get a break is to sing something that pleases the traffickers. It’s sad. I’d prefer to sing about other subjects, like poverty or protest, but no one’s interested (Ghetto Fabulous).” In addition, according to rhizomdevevelopment.com, “MCs have been standing above the crowd and have started to deliver quality lyrics. Mc Dede, for example, warns about the risk of going to prison and advise the youngsters to study and (of course) play football instead of getting involved in gang (Brazilian Funk: From the Favelas to the Villas).”
There is a multitude of variations of funk music. For example, funk melody is based on funk carioca beat but with romantic focus and is typically performed by female singers such as Perlla, Babi, and Copacabana Beat. Rasterinha is a more slow-paced variation of funk that uses atabaque (tall, wooden, Afro-Brazilian hand drum), pandero (Brazilian tambourine) and beatbox. Additionally, rasterinha has the influence of other music genres, such reggaeton and axé. Lastly, proibidão is another spinoff of funk in which the lyrics are more focused on “forbidden practices”, such the selling of drugs, the war against law enforcement, and even admiration for an unspecified drug cartel. Proibidão lyrics are often criticized due to their violent, misogynistic, and sexually explicit content so much of the words are changed in the radio versions.
Although many view funk as an offensive music genre due to scandalous lyrics; however, it is evident that funk is an important cultural expression of an oppressed group of people. An infusion of two completely different ways of life joined to create an infectious sound that instantaneously brings people together around the world. Now come back to the dancefloor. Feel the beats from the speakers as they take control over your body. Be in sync with the lights and the people around you. Now that you are lost in the song, you become the song — you become the funkeiro, on a small stage in the street in the favela, putting your struggles into words in the hopes that your voice will be heard.
“Brazilian Funk: From the Favelas to the Villas.” Rhizome Development. N.p., 02 May 2013.
Web. 20 Sept. 2016. <http://www.rhizomedevelopment.com/brazilian-funk-from-the-favelas-to-the-villas/>.
“Ghetto Fabulous.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 17 Sept. 2005. Web. 19 Sept.
Vanhee, Tine. “Funk Carioca: The Beat Goes On | Sounds and Colours.” Funk Carioca: The
Beat Goes On | Sounds and Colours. N.p., 17 June 2014. Web. 19 Sept. 2016. <http://soundsandcolours.com/articles/brazil/funk-carioca-the-beat-goes-on-24382/>.