Baile funk songs deal with Brazilian machismo, and with matters of race, class and violence in Favelas. It reflects the needs and desires of marginalized populations and the everyday experiences of those on the periphery.
As a heterogenous genre, baile funk has branched into different styles over the years. For instance, in ostentation funk (ostentação), MCs boasting expensive clothes, jewelry and cars reflect the wishes and desires of poor Brazilian youth, in a society that encourages consumption. This style thrived during the Lula administration of 2003 to 2011, during a commodities boom in which the purchasing power of Brazil’s less affluent classes increased.
Alternatively, in gospel funk, the music serves as a backdrop to religious lyrics. This emerging style communicates with Brazil’s growing evangelical population.
In 2021, it’s conscious funk (funk consciente) that has proved crucial, as exemplified by ‘Bum Bum Tam Tam’. Other examples of conscious funk include ‘Nunca foi Sorte (It was never luck)’ and ‘Diga Nao às Drogas (Say No to Drugs)’, which describe issues relating to addiction, racism and police violence.
Cultural prejudice and structural racism in Brazilian society, amplified by mass media, are largely responsible for attempts to criminalize baile funk. Congress has successively attempted to censor or even ban it. In 2017, legislators argued that baile funk was a “fake cultural expression” and a public health problem. In 2019, they attempted to restrict lyrics that they said encouraged hatred of the state and the police.
Certainly, some aspects of baile funk deserve criticism. Many songs contain violent language aimed at women, or lyrics that objectify their bodies and in extreme cases endorse rape culture. Similarly, the genre has been linked to irresponsible behavior during the pandemic, with many instances of crowded baile funk parties, despite social distancing restrictions.
But along with the criticism, it is important to recognize the genre’s ability to spread a coherent and simple message about the virus. Instead of attempting to criminalize Baile Funk, we should acknowledge and defend its social role.
Today, Brazil is grieving amid the chaos caused by the pandemic, which has been exacerbated by bad government decisions, neglect, and misinformation. In a country whose most severely affected populations are poor and from peripheral neighborhoods, ‘Bum Bum Tam Tam’ has risen to the challenge. In 2021, when truth has become a scarce resource, baile funk might just save Brazil.Print