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"Baile funk", in Brazil, refers not to the music, but to the actual parties or discothèques in which the music is played. Although originated in Rio, funk carioca has become increasingly popular amongst working classes in other parts of Brazil. In the whole country, funk carioca is most often simply known as funk, although it is very different musically from what funk means in most other places.
Funk carioca was once a direct derivative of Miami bass and freestyle (another Miami-based genre) music from the United States. The reason why these genres, very localized in the USA, became popular and influential in Rio de Janeiro is due to proximity. Miami was a popular plane stop for Rio DJs to buy the latest American records.
Funk carioca was popularized in the 1980s in Rio de Janeiro's favelas, the city's slums. From the mid-1990s on, it was a mainstream phenomenon in Brazil. Funk songs discuss topics as varied as poverty, human dignity, racial pride of black people, sex, violence, and social injustice. Social analysts believe that funk carioca is a genuine expression of the severe social issues that burden the poor and black people in Rio.
Carioca in its early days were mostly loops of electronic drums from Miami bass or freestyle records, while a few artists composed them with actual drum machines. The most common drum beat was a loop of DJ Battery Brain's "808 volt", commonly referred to as "Voltmix", though Hassan's "Pump Up the Party" is also notable. Nowadays, carioca funk rhythms are mostly based on tamborzão rhythms instead of the older drum machine loops.
Melodies are usually sampled. Older songs typically chopped up freestyle samples for the melody, or had none at all. Modern funk uses a set of samples from various sources, notably horn and accordion stabs, as well as the horn intro to the "Rocky" theme. Funk carioca has always used a small catalog of rhythms and samples that almost all songs take from (commonly with several in the same song). Funk carioca songs can either be instrumental or include rapping, singing, or something in between the two.
Funk Carioca is different from the funk originated in the United States. Starting in 1970, styles like bailes da pesada, black soul, shaft, and funk started to emerge in Rio de Janeiro. As time went on, DJ's started to look for other rhythms of black music, but the original name did not remain. The term baile funk is used to refer to the parties in which Funk Carioca is played. Funk Carioca first emerged and is played throughout the state of Rio de Janeiro, but not only in the city of Rio, like Rio natives like to believe. Funk Carioca is mostly appealing to the youth. In the decade of 1980, anthropologist Herman Vianna was the first social scientist to take Funk as an object to study in his Masters thesis, which gave origin to the book O Mundo Funk Carioca, which translates to The Carioca Funk World(1988). During that decade, funk dances lost a bit of popularity due to the emergence of disco music, a pop version of soul and funk, especially after the release of the film The Feet of Saturday Night (1977) starring John Travolta and with soundtrack of the band Bee Gees. At the time, the then teenager, Fernando Luís Mattos da Matta was interested in the discotheque when listening to the program Cidade Disco Club on Radio City of Rio de Janeiro (102.9 FM). Years later Fernando would adopt the nickname of DJ Marlboro and the radio would be known as the Rio "rock radio".
There are some derivatives and different music expressions of funk carioca.
Proibidão is a derivative of funk carioca related to prohibited practices. The content of the genre involves the selling of illegal drugs and the war against law enforcement agencies, as well as praising a drug cartel.
Until the year 2000, funk carioca was only a regional phenomenon. Then the European media began to report its peculiar combination of music, social issues with a strong sexual appeal (often pornographic).
In 2001, for the first time, funk carioca tracks appeared on a non-Brazilian label. One example is the album Favela Chic, released by BMG. It contained three old-school funk carioca hits, including the song "Popozuda Rock n' Roll" by De Falla.
In 2003, the tune Quem Que Caguetou (Follow Me Follow Me) by Black Alien & Speed, which was not a big hit in Brazil, was then used in a sports car commercial in Europe, and it helped increase the popularity of funk carioca. Berlin music journalist and DJ Daniel Haaksman released the seminal CD-compilations Rio Baile Funk Favela Booty Beats in 2004 and More Favela Booty Beats in 2006 through Essay Recordings. He launched the international career of Popozuda Rock n´Roll artist Edu K, whose baile funk anthem was used in a soft drink commercial in Germany. Haaksman continued to produce and distribute many new baile funk records, especially the EP series "Funk Mundial" and "Baile Funk Masters" on his label Man Recordings.
In 2004, dance clubs from Eastern Europe, mainly Romania and Bulgaria, increased the popularity of funk carioca due to the strong sexual appeal (often pornographic) of the music and dance, also known as Bonde das Popozudas. Many funk carioca artists started to do shows abroad at that time. DJ Marlboro and Favela Chic Paris club were the pioneer travelers and producers. The funk carioca production was until then limited to playing in the ghettos and the Brazilian pop market. DJ Marlboro, a major composer of funk carioca's tunes declared in 2006 in the Brazilian Isto É magazine how astonished he was with the sudden overseas interest in the genre. He would go on to travel in over 10 European countries.
In London, duo Tetine assembled a compilation album called Slum Dunk Presents Funk Carioca, which was released by Mr Bongo Records in 2004. Tetine also ran the weekly radio show Slum Dunk on London's radio art station Resonance Fm 104.4. Their radio show was entirely dedicated to funk carioca and worked as a platform for the duo to produce and organize a series of film programs as well as interviews and gigs involving funk carioca artists from Rio. Tetine were also responsible for the first screening of the post-feminist documentary Eu Sou Feia Mas Tô Na Moda by filmmaker Denise Garcia which was co-produced by Tetine in London and first shown in the city at the Slum Dunk Film Program at Brady Arts Centre in East London in March 2005. Apart from this, Tetine also produced two albums with experimental DIY queer funk carioca: Bonde do Tetão, released by Brazilian label Bizarre Records in 2004, and L.I.C.K My Favela, released by Kute Bash Records in 2005. Tetine also recorded with Deize Tigrona on the track "I Go to the Doctor", included in the LP L.I.C.K My Favela in 2005 and later on their album Let Your X's Be Y's, released by Soul Jazz Records in 2008.
In Italy, Irma Records released the 2005 compilation Colors Music #4: Rio Funk. Many small labels (notably European label Arcade Mode and American labels Flamin´Hotz and Nossa) labels released several compilations and EPs in bootleg formats.
The artist M.I.A. brought mainstream international popularity to funk carioca with her single Bucky Done Gun released in 2005, and brought attention to American DJ Diplo, who had worked on M.I.A.'s 2004 mixtape Piracy Funds Terrorism on the tracks Baile Funk One, Baile Funk Two, and Baile Funk Three.Diplo made a bootleg mixtape, Favela on Blastin, in 2004 after Ivanna Bergese shared with him some compiled remix mixtapes of her performance act Yours Truly. He also produced documentary Favela on Blast, which was released in July 2010 and documents the role, culture, and character of funk carioca in Rio's favelas.
Other indie video-documentaries have been made in Europe, especially in Germany and Sweden. These generally focused on the social issues in the favelas. One of the most famous of these series of documentaries is Mr Catra the faithful (2005) by Danish filmmaker Andreas Rosforth Johnsen, broadcast by many European open and cable television channels.
London-based artist Sandra D'Angelo was the first Italian singer-producer to bring funk carioca to Italy. She performed in London with Mc Gringo at Notting Hill Arts Club in 2008. She performed her baile funk productions for the contest Edison Change the Music in 2008. Sandra D'Angelo performed Baile Funk also in New York and produced tracks with EDU KA (Man Recordings) and DJ Amazing Clay from Rio.
In 2008, Berlin label Man Recordings released Gringão, the debut album by German MC Gringo -- the only non-Brazilian MC performing in the bailes of Rio de Janeiro.
In Brazil, funk carioca lyrics are often criticized due to their violent and sexually explicit lyrics, as well as misogynistic content. The degradation of women as objects for sex is a recurring theme in funk carioca. Girls are called "cachorras" (bitches) and "popozudas" - large asses, and many songs revolve around casual and degrading sex practices with them. "Novinhas" (young/underaged girls) as sexual objects are also a frequent theme in funk carioca songs. Some of these songs, however, are ironically sung by women.
The extreme banalization of sex and the incitement of promiscuity is viewed as a negative aspect of the funk carioca culture. Besides the moral considerations, in favelas, where sanitary conditions are poor and sex education low, this might lead to public health and social issues. In such communities, definitive contraceptive methods are hardly available and due to lack of education and awareness, family planning is close to nonexistent. This environment results in unwanted pregnancies, population overgrowth, and eventually the growth of the communities (favelização).
The glamorization of criminality in the favelas is also frequently viewed as another negative consequence of funk carioca. Some funk songs, belonging to a style known as "proibidão" ("the forbidden"), have very violent lyrics and are sometimes composed by drug-dealing gangs. Its themes include praising the murders of rival gang members and cops, intimidating opposers, claiming power over the favelas, robbery, drug use and the illicit life of drug dealers in general. Authorities view some of these lyrics as "recruiting" people to organized crime and inciting violence, and playing some of these songs are thus considered a crime.
Due to the lack of regulation and the locations where they usually take place, "bailes funk" are also very crime prone environments. They are popular hot spots for drug trade and consumption, dealers display power frequenting the parties heavily armed, and even murder rates are high.
More popular funk carioca artists usually compose two different sets of similar lyrics for their songs: one gentler, more "appropriate" version, and another with a harsher, cruder set of lyrics (not unlike the concept of "clean" and "explicit" versions of songs). The first version is the one broadcast by local radio stations; the second is played in dance halls, parties, and in public by sound cars. Recurrent lyric topics in funk carioca are explicit sexual positions, the funk party, the police force, and the life of slum dwellers in the favelas. Another large part of the lyrics is the use of the world around them - mainly the poverty that has enveloped the area. This is usually denounced in the lyrics and the hope for a better life is carried through many of their messages.
With its recent success in Europe, it has also been criticized that Brazil is exporting music that is much inferior when compared to the bossa nova of the 50's/60's and the Brazilian rock that had been made famous in the 1980s. It has been rumored that most of the funk projects in favelas are also financially backed by drug lords, so many song lyrics deal with challenging the police together with a subversive nature to the law currently established in Brazil.
Defenders of funk carioca argue that the genre is an authentic expression of the culture of Afro-Brazilian communities, and the lyrics of a sexual nature reflect the sexual freedom found in Brazilian society.