Baile funk, aka funk carioca or bailes funk, is a good example of how dance music conventions can be — and often are — shaped by the people and for the people. The DJ doesn’t necessarily define the sound, but the DJ does nurture it, develop it and mash the sound up with the contributions of other cultures that share similar experiences. In this case, the Baile funk experience was using the spirit of music and dance to rise above the poverty and oppression of the ghetto.
The term baile funk was used originally to describe a type of dance party that started happening in the favelas (ghettos) of Rio in the 70’s. Funk, r&b, and soul music being produced by American artists like George Clinton, James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye and Isaac Hayes had a strong voice with the people who populated the favelas. This music not only had relevant social messages, but grooves that were explicitly crafted for dancing.
Got to Give the people what they want
Being tuned into what people wanted to groove to at the time, DJs brought funk records from Miami, or sought them out from sources in Brazil. As the 80’s turned into the 90’s, the funk records had been replaced by hip hop records — and Miami hip hop was all about bass. The funk label stuck, however, and became synonomous with anything that was american dance music, which for the most part, in South America, was hip hop/rap.
Bass and beyond
What came to be known as the “funk” sound at the bailes (or “dances”) could be described as 808 beats with synthetic bass lines, and melodies combined with clave rhythms. Drum loops from Miami bass (also based on the clave rhythm) were certainly the most prominent pattern, but there were also patterns and sounds akin to early electro and techno. Samples from both native and imported pop music provided much of the texture and harmony in the music. As DJs created this music live at the bailes or in the studio, they would mash up local dance rhythms such as cumbia and merengue into the sound, which made it more accessible to larger audiences, and this cross-pollination made for a potent combination on the dance floor.
Now the fun part
Bucky Dun Gone by M.I.A. produced by Diplo is a signature baile funk club hit. Now check out Jiu Jitsu (Montagem) by Dj Isaac – sound familiar? Not sure which one came first but either way it’s a good example of what happens when a successful mash-up comes together. The Formula gets used over and over. M.I.A. also has some great tracks on Piracy Funds Terrorism. Quite fond of the this Diplo production as well from his latest release, decent work for decent pay. Rio Baile Funk More Favela Booty Beats is a great collection of the classic baile funk sound.
For a more modern take on the sound, listen to these releases from Bersa Discos featuring a variety of producers like DJ Panik, DJ Negro, and Uproot Andy. Bomba Esthero, and Bonde Do Role are some other great artists exploring this sound. And finally, not too long ago, the baile funk sound broke onto the mainstream charts with Gwen Stefani’s Wind it Up.
The basic recipe
Miami bass + latin dance + rap + pop samples = baile funk
Here is a good article from few years back in NY times. City of God is also a great movie for learning more about the origins of baile funk. Some great scenes depict early favela funk parties.
Any of the examples I listed above should make enjoyable stations and will produce a nice variety of Latin-flavored dance music. We took the liberty of creating a genre station called bmore, bass & baile which combines the baile sound with its older sister ‘bass’ and her little cousin “bmore.” Also, if you enjoy this baile funk sound, you may also have fun with reggaeton and dancehall… many parallels!
Dance Collection Manager