Photo: Rido/Shutterstock

The Brazilian Approach to Funk Music

Brazil Travel
by Renata Simões Feb 12, 2014

Rio funk, known as funk carioca in Portuguese, owes its name to the North American groove-music genre. But history has it that DJs and MCs from the initial baile scene, particularly Furacão 2000, got the beats from both electro and Miami bass, filling it with generous doses of dirty tricks. The result is fun, bizarre, and always original as fuck — even when stealing from others.

For years now, funk carioca has essentially been the soundtrack of summer in Rio and sings the life of the favelas and local communities — hence the level of violence and sexuality in the lyrics that would put off even Miley Cyrus.

Funk’s local popularity shows no sign of vanishing — as proved by this current map of bailes in Rio. It’s also influenced a host of new genres around the country, most notably the ostentação (as in: ostentation), sort of a younger brother from São Paulo. Inspired by the reality and aspirations of economically ascendant Brazilians, funk ostentação in general talks about money and what it can buy.

Here’s a little of what Brazilian funk can teach you about the country.

“Megane,” MC Boy do Charmes

Coming from Santos, birthplace of ostentação, this is the MC who, alongside visual producer KondZilla, created what’s considered to be the first “ostentation” aesthetic, emulating the lifestyle portrayed in North American rap and RnB music videos: expensive booze, cars, motorcycles, clothing, jewelry. As they say, “Out with the HK, in with the Citroen.”

Consumerism is an important part of the economic boom Brazil has experienced in the past decade, and few forms of expression pay homage to it more than funk ostentação.

“O Gigante Acordou,” MC Daleste

Daleste was born in São Paulo and rapidly became a strong musical role model. His lyrics told of love stories, of childhood, and daily life in poor neighborhoods. He was huge on Brazilian YouTube and also at São Paulo’s bailes. Tragically though, Daleste was shot on stage during a gig last year. He was 20 years old.

Before being killed, Daleste wrote and recorded “O Gigante Acordou” (“The giant awoke”), about the street protests that happened all over Brazil in June of 2013, giving voice to the enormous dissatisfaction regarding the country that some prefer not to speak about. But his lyrics also told about the feeling of hope, that a day will come when all is going to get better.

“Beijinho no Ombro,” Valesca Popozuda

Former gas station attendant and proud owner of a rearguard that would send Kim Kardashian home to cry, the inimitable Valesca has sung about how she’s “met Lula at the favela, and he couldn’t take his eyes of my ass,” among less printable lyrics. The unbelievable music video for “Beijinho no Ombro” (“Kiss on the Shoulder”) tries to imitate the ‘diva + dancers’ modus operandi of so many North American videos, while Valesca sings about how she wants her inimigas (enemies) to live long enough to watch her rise to fame.

The current economic climate has done wonders to Brazilian self-esteem. We feel deserving of copying foreign styles and fashions while maintaining our local jeitinho.

“Na Pista Eu Arraso,” MC Guimê

After overcoming many difficulties, subculture kids and their Brazilian funk now proudly mix external references — the North American looks and moves, the sunglasses, the Instagram selfies. It’s time to sing their success, to claim the prestige of the VIP area, the expensive champagne, the hot girls walking at their side.

Guimê is probably the biggest name in ostentação (he prefers to call it just “funk”) and, as anyone who’s survived difficult times, he has loads of self-esteem. Sexism and presumption — it’s all here.

“Envolvência e Quebradeira,” Bonde do Passinho

Passinho (small step) dancing was born at the bailes, a mixture of movements from funk, frevo, capoeira, and hip-hop. This video shows a day in the life of some kids as they go to release new music at the baile. From the competition between dancers came this bonde (group) to show how funk is evolving to something else.

This is where the mix of influences and genres, so characteristic of Brazil, reaches new heights. The cultural sampling and popular creativity are explicit in the passinho, a dance that, as many Brazilian streets, is not for amateurs.

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