Brazil’s wildly popular baile funk movement, essentially a Brazilian street music take on ‘90s Miami bass, seems poised for wider popularity abroad. Here in America, this has unsurprisingly taken the form of wholesale lifting of musical motifs, and we’re currently being treated to such pop uselessness as the new single by Kevin Federline (better—no, only—known for marrying Britney Spears), a shoddily baile funk inspired number called “Popozao”. In a recent interview with David Lee Roth, K-Fed admitted to knowing little about his source material besides what his producer (shame on you, Disco D) had played for him and even seemed unclear on where the title had come from (it’s Brazilian Portuguese for “luscious ass”). Just fantastic.
Elsewhere, and more encouragingly, Germany’s Man Recordings has been releasing baile-funk-influenced singles somewhat closer to their source, like “Popozuda Rock N’ Roll”, a frenzied shout-out to baile funk from authentic Brazilian rocker Edu K, originally released six years ago with his long-running punk band De Falla. Take note, Federline. There’s a reason the titles are similar. It’s songs like this that made your single possible in the first place.
Now, Edu K has followed up the still-spreading popularity of that track, which has received a nod, and a remix, from Diplo, with Frenétiko, an entire new album of baile funk/punk, also on Man. Baile funk is essentially music for favela (slum) dance parties, and Edu K remains true to that spirit, infusing the genre’s thick bass kick and rapped vocals with electro beats and jagged rock guitar loops. With the vocals drawn more towards shouted punk than actual rap, the combination comes off a little like “Fight for Your Right”-era Beastie Boys. It’s just as much fun, just as frivolous, and I can see easily visualize some Brazilian equivalent of a drunken American frat boy rocking out to it with a 40 gripped tightly in one hand.
As completely unapologetic party music, Frenétiko is without a lot of depth, but also without any sort of pretension. Opening track “Funkeiro C.B.” and the aforementioned ” Popozuda Rock N’ Roll” are as irresistably catchy as they seem intended to be, and the Tarzan yells on “Quero Serator Pornô” as ridiculous. Edu K’s vocals and those of his brother Chilli Willi are well-suited to the style, and on new single “Sex-o-Matic” they receive competent help from another baile-funk icon, Deize Tigrona, who provided the inspiration for M.I.A.‘s “Bucky Done Gone”. And in this case, not understanding Portugese seems to make the songs easier to appreciate. Stretches of English like “hot mama / would you shake those hips for me” only serve to confirm the utter frivolity at work here, a shame given the progressive politics inherent to a lot of pure baile funk.
So what we have here is a pure and original, if entirely unsubstantial, take on Brazilian pop music. It’s hardly going to change any lives, but should at least elicit a few smiles. And I’ll take anything by Edu K over any horrible American baile funk bastardization any time. I can’t shake the fear that Federline is only the start, and it’s terrifying. Let’s hope that, instead, the worldwide release of musicians like Edu K will help listeners seek out the real article.
// Notes from the Road
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