Monday, May 12, 2008

Fresh Funk: the Bad, the Good, and the Ugly

Sunday Night Fever

Sunday night´s program at the club Emoções in Rocinha: the sound system Espião Shock de Monstro and the devastatingly popular MC Creu, the man behind the most annoying song in the history of funk carioca.

I arrive early and the club is still pitch black and half empty, but it wont stay long that way. Lighting equipment I didn´t even know existed wakes up one by one to brighten up room. Bondes - trains of dancers, crews who go to bailes together - snake through the audience and stop once in a while to perform a sequence of well-practiced, synchronized dance moves. It is an impressive sight. There is a gangster with a ton of bling-bling weighing down his neck, a young man drinking beer through a straw, girls in smallest mini-skirts that still hide most of their underpants and a kid hardly reaching my waist, all sweating it on the dancefloor. Tamborzão-beat sounds incredible when played through an enormous wall of speakers. It forces you to dance. The sensation is physical; you cannot keep still when the bass waves make your flesh tremble.

But let´s leave Emoções for a moment and enjoy funk on our humble little home sounds. Funk carioca is more available to western audiences than ever: two noteworthy compilations have hit the stores in the world outside Brazil in recent months, both subjects of a lot of talk in the blogosphere. Prohibidão C.V. from Sublime Frequencies and Pancadão do Morro: O Funk do Flamin Hotz, Já É? from Flamin Hotz couldn't differ more from each other.

The Bad

Prohibidão C.V. is a collection of prohibidão-songs, forbidden drug faction-promoting funks, recorded on field and presented without any information on artists. Collection is either a documentation of an important aspect of the funk phenomenon, or, depending on how you look at it, a shameless, misinformed attempt to cash on the appeal of violence and danger in the western market. A lot has been written on the subject, so I wont add anything, but instead I let DJ Rideon lead you forward. Or you can just take a look at Gregzinho's paper on it, clever, insightful and highly critical as always. I woudn't be that hard on the album, but he´s got a point.

The Good

Pancadão do Morro, on the other hand, is a sort of "fair trade funk collection", as aforementioned Greg, the man behind the disk, calls it in his blog. It looks like a perfect package in every way, unless you count the fact that it is only published on CD (though there is a vinyl EP available). The collection boasts great artists, biographies of them all, photos, the lyrics to each song in Portuguese and English and all this is packaged neatly in wonderful cover art. Images are painted by Tony Minister, a funk legend and a cover illustrator since the beginning. I've been in the process of digitalizing some of the fascinating cover art of the old funk LPs I've bought in Rio and Tony is the man behind all the coolest illustrations, so more on this subject once I get the cover art show on-line.

And the Ugly

To get the ugly one too in the mix, here's a little song from Neo funk, a compilation by Porto Alegre´s DJ Chernobyl, released just in Brazil. The disk consentrates on more poppy hipster acts like Bonde do Role and Edu K, features a few rather unbearable songs and lots of guitar samples. This tune has pretty nasty ones, in a positive way.

Miami Bros: Umbanda Larga (zShare)

The ugliness, like beauty, is in the eye of beholder. Thus I don´t comment on Creu in this aspect, though personally I would put him in that category out of the three available. So let´s return to the Emoções. The secret of Creu is finally dawning to me: interaction.

Creu has perhaps around three songs, all of them based on him talking sexually-oriented nonsense over a pretty basic tamborzão-beat. The hit Dança do Créu - which consists of repeating the word "créu" at an increasing speed - is streched live into a 15-minute performance: how fast can a well-trained popozuda shake her big, round butt? The next song involves the whole audience taking three steps to right at same time and so forth, "Jack says", we all played this at kindergarden. And then back to the grande finale of booty shaking performance. The answer to the previous question: lightning fast. Looks kinda idiotic on YouTube but is amusing in it's own stupid way when you are actually there.

So the Dança do Créu, if you´ve missed it. You were warned.

MC Creu: Dança do Créu (zShare)

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