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The music born in the favelas

Doctoral student researches how Brazilian Funk serves as a tool for the poor population to find their space into society and into the country’s rich culture
The music born in the favelas

Rosa conducted musical ethnography at Campo da Tuca, in Porto Alegre

Text: Yuri Correa

UFRGS researcher and doctoral Music student, Pedro Fernando Acosta da Rosa, is a former resident of Campo da Tuca community,  Eastern Porto Alegre. He  points out that he was intolerant of Funk (he uses capital letter to refer to the genre because he believes  it carries cultural weight).When asked about his interest in studying the history and development of this music genre, Rosa explains that  during his MA he started to go to bailes funks (as parties led by this rhythm are known) and that “they  made me realise the strength they  have for Tuca’s residents.”  The researcher mentions that there are no further studies on this subject in Porto Alegre. The agglomerate of houses at Campo da Tuca  is so called because people were building their houses surrounding a football field that  was inside Dona Tuca’s property. Over time, she parted her land and sold it to people of her trust, such as Vovô, her foreman, whose descendants still live there. With historical reconstitution, it was discovered that most of the families that live there are black and poor people who  were removed from their houses, that still stand in Porto Alegre’s downtown, and relocated to this far away area  since the 19th century. The political cycles in Brazil during the following century were constant in this aspect, and ethnic cleansing had the black population as its main target.

The neighborhood also received those who left rural areas.  Over the time, there was an overcrowding (today the number is estimated in 10 thousand inhabitants, according to community leaders), and the football field struggled to survive  because it represented usable space to build new houses. However,  Tuca’s residents were persistent in this matter and denied occupation of the field - football was part of the community soul.

With the rise of non professional football teams, the place started to get a fervent crowd, whose spirit of rivalry diminished only in away matches against  "foreign" teams. The notion of community unity is highlighted by the researcher as an important factor since the matches there promoted events for both celebration and fund raising. It was   in this context  that Tuca’s bailes funk were born. However, before Funk started  to dominate the scene, pagode was the most popular sound in dance parties. Rosa recollects that he was part of a band at the end of 90’s named Swing da Gente. It was in the middle of 2010 that the genre became imperative for  the community to gather to dance.

He knows that Funk is usually associated with the world of crime, drugs, violence, and above all, sexuality. “At first, Samba, Pagode, and other music styles were also seen this way, but Funk is still new,” he comments referring to the difficulties faced by the genre to be recognised. According to him, this stigma partially denotes prejudice against  the origin of Funk in poor areas, since middle class citizens are used to  buying products of their  own reality, and on the other hand, they also feed on  social denial of  the existence of historical problems such as racism and censorship of sexuality.

Rosa points out that Funk can carry violent, sexist messages, and messages about drugs, but he says that this is the reflexion of MCs (Master of Ceremony, as  Funk songwriters are known) daily lives. He highlights  that as this genre is new, it is possible to change it  and refine it. “It is common to see an MC answering another in a song because he disagreed with his lyrics, or  a female MC writing a song against an MC’s sexist song; so there is an answering back  system inside Funk” , Rosa explains, emphasizing that the genre is not responsible for instigating violence more than a movie or the  news.

As Tuca’s  former resident, the researcher used a participative approach method: not only did he observe but he also communicated with people participating in events that were objects of  his study. Rosa describes his research as a musical ethnography: a study of how a particular people created a way of expression in their own neighbourhood , and how this impacted on their culture. He compares Funk movement with United States Hip-hop, since  both emerged in poor areas, neglected by public services, as a way of expressing their own reality. The popularisation of technology is another resemblance that Rosa considers to be important to the existence of both movements. The researcher points out that the internet democratised the access and distribution of songs of this population and, before that, electronic instruments made it possible for individuals who did not have resources to learn music theory to create their own songs.

It is a dispute

Rosa compares the situation of Funk with football. “There is a dispute happening”, he affirms, observing  that public services collaborate for the genre to get its own space. As a teacher at Fase (Socio-educational Service Foundation), where Rosa teaches music to juvenile offenders, he observes that making Funk is a way of expression for those youngsters who  are mostly locked up for a year, during the most difficult time in  their sexual development.  This scenario is similar in poor areas, he says. Through a historical retrospective, he dates back to poor and black people trajectory in Porto Alegre, pointing to ethnic cleansing that  exiled these people to most distant areas.

This part of the population that is  neglected by public services also found in Funk a way of occupying main areas where white conservative people are predominant. “And funkeiros are getting their space”. According to the researcher, with projects such as this developed at Fase, laws and events geared towards the genre, today the MCs are already establishing their space, leaving poor areas and building successful careers - he mentions MC Bin Laden, MC Mano Beto, MC Barbie, MC Jean Paul, Ludmilla, Anitta, among others.

Rosa associates this phenomenon with  the concept of quilombismo, created by late Brazilian activist Abdias Nascimento. Quilombos were places  to where fugitive slaves came during America’s colonization, and  where native indians, black, and white people were protected. Quilombismo is this social practice of sheltering away from urban centers and building a culture that is a hybrid of the burden brought by its social exiles. According to research, today Funk is part of this culture and therefore, an important element of social struggle.

Research is needed

However, Rosa warns that this initiative can  not come from the oppressed side only. Funk significant conquest  of space makes those who still label it as something bad more radical; therefore, both realities must be connected. The doctoral student points out that both academic research in those areas and access of  marginalised groups to university are essential to the existence of social equality. Currently he is focused on  studying  the organised black culture groups. Rio de Janeiro is not the production pole of Funk’s acceptance, from where most of the successful artists came,  just because of its history, but also because it concentrates many research about the genre and its social context, he says

Rosa says that many youngsters from poor areas do not have access to musical theory and he criticises the method of admission in Music college: “Nowadays you must do an audition.” Rosa says  that the entry  to the university could help these groups and their culture to be more recognised, similarly to what happened with samba.

Funk is part of an organism. Rosa connects  its trajectory with that of football, local market, and social politics, showing how each element is related.  He concludes that the validation by society is important for all these subterfuge available to poor people to be effective. According to him, equalising  and recognising  the genre along with other already popular genres is also to accept that we have issues to be solved in our society, and this cannot be thrown to the corners of the  big cities.

 

Title: Bailes funk, dance meetings, stint, mixtapes and naughtiness: the music ethnography at Campo da Tuca, “Funk’s capital in the South of Brazil”

Title in Portuguese: Bailes, festas, reuniões dançantes, trampos, montagens e patifagens: uma etnografia musical no Campo da Tuca, “a capital do Funk no Sul do país”

Author: Pedro Fernando Acosta da  Rosa

Supervisor: Reginaldo Gil Braga

Unit: Post-graduation in Music

Text in Portuguese available at: http://www.ufrgs.br/secom/ciencia/a-musica-que-nasce-no-canto-da-cidade/

Translated by  Joana da Silveira de Souza under the supervision of Professor Márcia Moura da Silva (UFRGS)

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