Brazilian Funk: From the Favelas to the Villas

Brazil’s musical contribution to the world is huge. Western’s knowledge about the music from this country is often limited to Bossa Nova but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Samba, Forró, Choro, Afoxé, Sertanejo… this new world of music is creative as it is diverse. A long history of cultural interconnections between native Americans, Europeans and Africans created this whole new range of musical styles. The fast development and urbanisation of Brazil have lead to a new sound from the ghetto: Funk Carioca

The beginning

Everything started with the birth of Hip Hop in the US. Producers from the favelas were deeply influenced by the early Hip Hop sound from Africa Banbaataa and the late American Funk from the 80s from where it inherited one part of its name. The new wave of sounds from Florida and the more Electronic Miami Bass also shaped the genre. The late electronic music addition remains a strong a component of the movement.

Like anywhere in the world, the 808 drum machine was a complete revolution and the base of new genres. In the country of Bossa Nova, the ghetto took over this sound to produce Funk Carioca, which is also known as just Funk in Brazil or Funky (not to be confused with the british version). In Brazilian Portuguese, Carioca is actually just the name given to people living in Rio De Janeiro where the genre first appeared. This music is better known as Baile Funk in the rest of world. But for Brazilian, Baile just means a venue for dancing. All those different designations are leading to confusion.

As the focus is more on the lyrics, the catalogue of rhythms might seem to be a little limited at first. But producers progressively became more creative and have started to incorporate more native and traditional Brazilian sounds. Another critique of the genre, and certainly the most popular one, is that Funk Carioca lyrics have often been dubbed as too orientated towards sex and violence. The music is coming from the favelas so it makes sense that those subjects are part of the lyrics as all this is part of the daily life of the producers and singers.

But a lot of producers and MCs have been standing above the crowd and have started to deliver quality lyrics. Mc Dede, for example, warns about the risk of going to prison and advise the youngsters to study and (of course) play football instead of getting involved in gangs.

Funk's Influence in North America & Europe

In the meantime, the movement progressively reached the shores of Europe and northern America where the public was more than happy to welcome new sounds. A lot of new indie record labels have been inspired by the Brazilian such as Mad Descent, which quickly started to produce tracks influenced by this music.

Diplo, the founder of the label, did a hell of a promotion of the genre through his productions, which are often inspired by the Brazilian music but also by signing Brazilian artists on his own label (like Banda Do Role). He also produced tracks for the now famous London born Sri Lankan singer MIA. Their mixtape “Piracy Funds Terrorism, Vol. 1” featured a lot of Funk artists. MIA also released a Funk track “Bucky Done Gun” on the very influential British label XL recordings.

In Germany, Daniel Haaksman compiled the release “Rio Baile Funk – Favela Booty Beats” in 2004. This compilation of Funk, sometimes instrumentals, will become the perfect tool for DJs to spicy up their set. Dedicated to DJs or connoisseurs, this release will remain an important piece of Brazilian culture in Europe.  It was released on Essay Recording, a record label blending world music and electronic music with an emphasis on Balkan Music. Soon after, Daniel founded Man Recording, a record label dedicated to Funk Carioca and the new so called Tropical Bass movement. The “Funk Mundial” compilation series gathering European producers is a good example on how this new Brazilian music charmed the old continent.

Although Funk Carioca has often been synonym to poor black Brazilians from the favelas, the romanticization of the music was strong especially in Europe. This leads to the creation of things such as club with name like “Favela Chic” in Paris. The Brazilian favelas music was seen as new, wild, & sexy and this was enough to spark the interest of young Europeans. Movies like the City Of God fuelled this image of the romantic and dangerous ghetto life.

The music also started to diffuse itself in the existing electronic music scene of European and American countries. The wide European electronic music quickly adopted the new music. Band such as Zombie Disco Squad from London are sampling and remixing a lot of Brazilian Funk in their House tunes. Their 2 tracks, Esperanto and Eurovision released on the indie French record label Sound Pellegrino are so much inspired by Carioca Funk it’s hard to think it’s still House music.

The gentrification of Funk music

Back to Brazil, the genre became so popular that subjects started to shift to vulgar display. MCs stated to talk about expensive cars, gold necklace and models. The names of their songs were now coming from car’s model: Classe A (Mercedes Benz), Mégane (Renault)….

The documentary Funk Ostentação shows this evolution of the Funk scene. From showing the ghetto life it is now just about showing off…

As Brazilian Funk artists started to be more famous, poor people’s condition improved thanks to Lula’s politics. The dynamic Brazilian economy over the last decades also made the middle-class a lot richer. Funk singers were then no more protesting or talking about social problems. They were now just entertaining people and celebrating their new status.

Funk Ostentação became a label to describe this new scene of shameless producers and MCs of Brazilian Funk. The pioneer DJ Malboro was now living peacefully in a villa.

But Funk Ostentação has now a counter movement named Funk Consciente or Funk Bonito. Consciente means ”Consciousness” and Bonito just means “good”. Those new branches of the Funk genre are direct attacks to the materialist version of Funk. They are often coming back to the roots of Funk with lyrics about the favelas or more politically charged subjects.

What's next?

Recently the Brazilian underground music scene is more and more influenced by the Moombathon, Trap and Bass music movements (such as Sants or Tropkillaz). In the next coming years it will be interesting for the Funk genre. It looks like a more underground scene is emerging while the mainstream is also thriving especially in its homeland.



  1. Elisa 14/12/2014 Reply

    Gotta love our brazilian funk… There are other southamericans though: Hope it keeps spreading!

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