Funk Carioca, is a high tempo form of dance music that is jam packed with the energy of the streets. Importantly, it should not be confused with funk as we tend to know it, though it comes from a similar sort of viewpoint as those early American funk pioneers; full of grit, pride and sexuality.
Also known as Baile Funk (though this actually refers to the parties rather than the music), Funk Carioca is heavily influenced by Miami Bass and grew to enormous popularity in Brazil through the mid-1990s. No doubt this has something to do with Miami being a reasonably short plane jump away from Rio de Janeiro, and a place perfect for crate digging DJs to pick up new sounds.
Sampling the 808 beats and drum loops from Miami Bass tracks, the Rio DJs began to add in a familiar Brazilian flavour with sampled hand drums or Tamborzão beats. Melodically Funk Carioca focuses on sampled horn and accordion stabs, with the intro from the Rocky theme being a particular favourite. It all comes together to create an urban sound that is designed to be played through the biggest soundsystems around.
The most important character of Brazilian ‘Funk’ is its roots in the favelas of Rio. More than any other genre, Baile Funk has been the sound of the streets over the past 15-20 years. Like Hip Hop in the US, the music’s lyrics often show a strong social awareness, dealing in dark themes of violence and poverty. Most of this music goes unrecorded, with only censored and toned-down versions making their way to CD. Fewer tracks than you’d expect make their way online too; it’s illegal to promote crime through song in Brazil and few artists can make enough money to make the risk worth taking. On the other hand, promoting local gangland figures is commonplace.
More recently the style has gone international and mainstream, with artists like MIA and Diplo taking on a similar sound. Nonetheless, if you like your music to have attitude, a sense of humour (‘Funk’ loves to poke fun), and to be the authentic soundtrack to the best parties in Rio, this is stuff worth checking out.