(ETX Daily Up) – Few music is as emblematic of Brazil as carioca funk. Born in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, this musical genre is acclaimed by the youth of the country. To the great displeasure of the local authorities who seek to silence him. Photographer Vincent Rosenblatt looks back on the tumultuous history of funk and its popular balls.
Vincent Rosenblatt likes to say that he doesn’t find his subjects, but his subjects come to him. Funk bailes are no exception. The French photographer immersed himself in the world of these popular balls after the walls of his house, located in the Carioca district of Santa Teresa, shook under the effect of the ultra-rhythmic music that was playing at full loudspeaker volume in the neighboring favela. It wasn’t samba, bossa nova or forro, it was funk. This musical current is inspired by Miami bass, a genre of hip-hop “made in Florida” characterized by a fast tempo, lyrics with strong sexual connotations and the use of drums produced by the Roland TR-808 drum machine. . The sound of funk finds an echo in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, before spreading to the other metropolises of the country. The bailes funk helped to popularize it, attracting thousands of mostly black Brazilians from disadvantaged neighborhoods.
Every week, thousands gather in the alleys of the Mangueira, Complexo do Alemão and Complexo da Penha favelas to dance in front of sound systems that look like cyberpunk monsters. No physiognomist at the entrance or bar. Glasses of alcohol can be bought in “barraquinhas”, these street stalls that quench the thirst of revelers. Substances circulate, discreetly, although the atmosphere is not stoned. Here, we brush against each other, have fun, shout and sway our hips to more frantic rhythms than each other.
These scenes of jubilation, Vincent Rosenblatt knows them well. He has immortalized more than 400 of these popular gatherings in the Carioca city since 2005. “I dedicate many nights to the bailes, to hand-to-hand combat with the funkeiros. , the gestures and desires of a certain youth,” he explains.
Funk, a criminal like any other
The photojournalist brought together several of these shots in his first book, “Rio Baile Funk”, published by LP Press in Brazil. These images, sensual and overexcited, suggest a reality very different from that depicted by the Carioca authorities. They have been trying for decades to ban funk and the popular parties it hosts, claiming that they promote crime, violence and debauchery.
Their efforts intensified in 2007, when Brazil was named host of the 2014 World Cup. Special units of the Carioca police, the Unidades de policia pacificadora (UPP), then obtain the right to prohibit cultural events that they consider contrary to security or morality, such as bailes funk. “These UPPs first invested 40 favelas, where sublime funk bailes were given. Overnight, these neighborhoods were transformed into silent dormitories. However, at the same time, funk was authorized in nightclubs. chic nights of Copacabana, Ipanema and Barra. The richest white people went there to dance to songs banned from broadcasting in the favelas, where they were created”, underlines Vincent Rosenblatt. It must be said that carioca funk suffers from an image problem, just like hip-hop, its North American cousin. “There are a lot of fantasies around the favelas and the people who live there. Everything they do is criminalized. However, it is an extremely human place where there is a lot of mutual aid. not just anything, contrary to what the Brazilian authorities claim,” says the photographer. Despite everything, the funk disturbs. It resists and gives rise to many sub-genres, more or less sulphurous. First there is the funk melody and its romantic lyrics. The funk ostentação (“ostentatious” in French), coming straight from São Paulo, which tells the consumerist aspirations of the Brazilian middle classes. Putaria funk with raw and ultra-sexualized lyrics. And the most controversial of all, funk proibidão (“forbidden” in French), inspired by the world of gangs and organized crime. Far from stereotypes
This reality shines through in some of Vincent Rosenblatt’s shots, notably one where we see a young man with a pendant in the shape of an assault rifle around his neck. The photographer, however, claims that appearances can be deceiving and that “funk is much more complex than it seems”.
The proof with the relationship it has with sexuality. If many funkeiros [interprètes de funk] convey sexist stereotypes in their texts, machismo is reversible. “Women have always responded to men in funk songs. They talk about their pleasure in particular through texts as raw as those of Missy Elliott, Nicki Minaj or Cardi B”, says Vincent Rosenblatt. also, to question gender stereotypes in a country led by a president who is accustomed to misogynistic and homophobic outbursts. Drag queens rub shoulders with young men emulating all the traditional (and outdated) codes of virility. The bodies sweat, undulate and search for each other in an atmosphere conducive to physical rapprochement, to the “pegação” as the Brazilians say. And this, whatever the sexual identity of each one. For Vincent Rosenblatt, “Carioca funk is a great theater of masculinity and femininity”.
Deize Tigrona, Tati Quebra-Barraco, Valesca Popozuda and Ludmilla are among the leaders of this emancipatory funk. But it was Anitta who really contributed to exporting this musical genre beyond the borders of her country of origin. The pop star, often described as the “Beyoncé do Brasil”, recently became the first Brazilian artist to perform at the famous American festival Coachella. A consecration for the one who made her debut in the funk bailes of the carioca favelas.
If funk culture is popular internationally, it is still viewed with suspicion in the country where it was born. Even if it is registered, since 2009, in the cultural heritage of the State of Rio de Janeiro. One of the subgenres it spawned, brega funk, could soon experience the same fate in Alagoas, in the Brazilian Northeast. A “schizophrenia” of which Brazil has the secret, according to Vincent Rosenblatt. Both loved and decried, funk and its famous balls come up against the hostility of those who would prefer bossa nova to be the soundtrack of Brazilian youth. “But funk isn’t just music. It’s a culture, an identity, a celebration, a moment of collective art, like an ancient Greek assembly where the whole community goes to sing and dance about the issues that affect it. The authorities are trying to silence it but it continues to rise from its ashes,” says Vincent Rosenblatt. The photographer is there to ensure this through his new book.
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