In this guest post, DA friend Jez Smadja shares with us thoughts & context on Passinho, a hypnotic new dance style that is contouring the complicated culture of the Rio’s baile funk scene, suggesting alternatives to the cartel-ization of funk, sidestepping standard dancefloor machismo, and (hopefully) challenging the gentrification of Rio, one of the most expensive and most touristed cities of Latin America. Enjoy!

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Muito obrigado to Alexandra for reaching the brink of near deafness with me and surviving to tell the tale.  Yes I saw windows shake.  Who says favela architecture is precarious if it can withstand the sonic onslaught every weekend while IPHAN declares a meticulous building that took four years to construct too fragile for subfrequencies?  Maybe the real precarity is in the formal city.

Building sound systems is its own architectural gesture too, especially with the elbow room of a big downtown square, a far cry from the tight squeeze of a favela’s improvised public spaces.  Turned on its side, Furacão 2000’s speakerboxes look like they would tower above downtown Rio’s citadel to petroleum, the Petrobrás tower lurking behind in all its sinister, cut rectangular prism glory.

In fact, the vertical architecture of downtown actually served as a sonic prism, trapping in the sound waves that just about made themselves visible — from the shaking window to my vibrating Coke can to the blurry vision when I was trapped in the ricochet effect of speakers against building.  Sonic Warfare indeed. (more…)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4LisTccRm8[/youtube]

[Go to :37 to skip the song’s credit intro]

Well not “pirates” exactly, but camelô, hawkers. For years I thought street vendors were called “camels” (camelo) and wondered about the connection. And, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil the area of the largest semi-formal, pirate-media-makers/smugglers market is called the Sahara.

The lyrics in the video defend camelôs working to provide for their families and attack social inequality in Brazil and the country’s prohibitively high taxes–e.g. 60% on a foreign “luxury” item like DJ gear. The long-haired kid in red, Yuri BH, sings about how musicians fly throughout Brazil for shows because of their partnership with camelôs who publicize their music. Many MCs and DJs, who I met gave their CDs and DVDs to the camelôdromo (the “hawker-drome”) in hopes of “pirate” proliferation and distribution.

Efficient pirate sales–plus radio play and “free” sites like FunkNeurótico— may have helped catapult another of the MCs featured in the song. MC Bó do Catarina–blue hat & braces–seems to have the song right now in Rio. And he’s not even from there. Funk carioca (“funk from Rio”) as the genre’s name suggests needs to be from Rio. Artists living outside of Rio, historically, have not gained a name within the music.

Bó’s hit song, “Vida Louca Também Ama,” roughly translates to “Crazy Life Also Loves.” Like in Los Angeles “vida loca” refers to gang life. In Rocinha, the largest favela in South America, where I’m living, it’s playing on YouTube at my friends’ homes. The lyrics are on my neighbors’ lips. As I roar up the hill on a motorcycle taxi, I hear it blast from distorted speakers on corners and in front of bars. And it’s somehow this popular without fitting into either of the two currently dominant subgenres. It’s not putaria, about sex; no lyrics, like my neighbors’, cleverly manage to pun camera with getting head. And despite the “vida louca” mention it’s not proibidão, gangsta funk glorifying specific factions or telling tales of local wars.

Overall since MCs–or their impresarios/managers–often have to pay the radio monthly and tip baile funk DJs with bottles of Black Label whisky and Red Bull to get their songs played, “pirates” who distribute their music for free, i.e. without the artist having to pay, can be a good deal. The prevalence of media piracy in Brazil, however, might have contributed to the death of formally released albums of funk. Piracy might be used as an excuse by label-heads to explain to artists why they receive so little royalties and for labels not to produce official CD releases anymore. DVDs of shows are the only commodity nowadays. But as long as the quality of their music wasn’t degraded, many funkeiros said they supported pirate media distribution as a way for their music to take off through Brazil. Cheap, fast, exploding.

Bó do Catarina-Vida Louca Também Ama

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And his newest song–which starts nicely sweetened with some Melodyne/Auto-Tune–which Bó gave me on a burned CD-R:

Bó do Catarina-7 Vidas

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