Beat Diaspora: Beats, Buses, Bricks

an omnivorous take on music of the beat-based variety and the urban spaces that nurture it

Friday, July 28, 2006

"biggest cultural treasure we have right now"

Like I said, this has been a big week. While I can't underestimate the value of something as simple as having a contact in one of the favelas, as I do now with Rogerio and Dois Irmãos, the whole project was jumpstarted a few days ago when Maga Bo sent me what amounts to a rolodex of contacts in Rio. At this point, it's implied that any interview I conduct or person I meet or party I attend probably has something to do with that guy. (Although Reasoner deserves some points too.)

The first lead that has gone somewhere concrete was with Adriana Pittigiliani. She's an artist (esp. photography) and a booster of all things funk. As far as I can tell, she acts as something like a manager, or at the very least networks like one, and seems to have her fingers in all the major international promotions of funk (Diplo, Man Recordings) and is well-acquainted with the better-knowns locally (Mr Catra, DJ Sandrinho, DJ Sany Pitbull).

We had quite a long bate-papo ("chat" . . . has a distinctive enough word because Brazilians are known to chat and chat and chat . . . it took awhile to get out of there) about funk, favelas, and the Rio-US/Europe connection.

There's plenty of subtleties to be worked out in the ideas we discussed (Prof Sneed's thesis, which I've started, does a good job of that -- working on getting a link or permission to post the whole thing, & will certainly comment on it later), but a quick overview of the highlights:
  • Invisibility: The favelas are invisible to the society at large, natch (ever since Wayne used it in reference to my blog, I've been tempted to pick it up), despite being up close & next to them instead of banished to the periphery. What's the best way to make yourself known to your rich neighbors? Guns work. So does earth-shattering bass. (but the two go hand in hand, the thesis isn't called Machine Gun Voices for nothing.) It's giving me a sudden urge to read Invisible Man. Certainly it's a universal theme.
  • Ownership: Diplo was quoted in the April 2006 issue of BPM Magazine (afraid a link to the actual article is no where to be found, Adriana gave me a PDF of it) as saying:
    It's tricky because a lot of artists from the morros in Rio, they don't really think past next week. They do their shows, drop a funk track here and there, bust into a funk ball and get some respect and some girls and some paper, and thank the Lord they can live another month. They don't have contracts, endorsements and marketing plans like rappers got in the US -- they just got a little love from their neighborhoods -- and they feel dignified and that's fulfilling. So it's not going to be the street shit to blow up in the US. The artists just can't mesh with the music lifestyle and business like we see in the US.
She agree wholeheartedly with this, and railed against the fact that DJ Marlboro holds 100% rights to almost 4,000 funk tracks cut by local MCs for whom the short-term promise of several months rent is far more important than abstract notions like copyright. He then gets his name on the credits (his production, his DJ in the studio), plays them on his radio show (and apparently they're watered down versions anyway, more radio-friendly), and reaps any potential royalties. Want to make a funk compilation? Fat chance, Adriana tells me, as the Nossa Design guys figured out, since he's sitting on all of the best recordings.

It does make me wonder, though, how the Man Recordings comps got out and who's profiting from them. I'm all for freedom of exchange (the production & distribution of the music within Rio seems to be nothing if not fluid), and these facts do put in a better light the criticism of Diplo's funk mixes for not crediting the artists (better but not perfect -- whether or not it's a money thing, and whether or not the original "artist" by our standards can be found, he had to know a thing or two about them, but then again he's into the closely-guarded-secret thing, or so I'm told). However, if someone is going to profit from this stuff monetarily, it should somehow trickle down into the communities that created it in the first place.
  • Pastiche/Bricolage: That was ownership from the economic side, now let's get high-minded for a sec. Adriana is way into Roland Barthes -- I happen to think he's a pretty cool guy myself -- and together we vibed for a bit on the aesthetic of funk as a musical pastiche or bricolage (although the latter is of Lévi-Strauss coinage). I would say more of the latter than the former, however. Pastiche implies more parody or imitation, and a point that Adriana was insistent on is that you can't call funk simply some derivation of American hip-hop. Its Afro-Brazilian/Brazilian-Brazilian/is there much of a difference? roots & inspirations (capoeira, candomblé, samba, football) are not to be ignored. To that end, it's more a bricolage of musical styles, both local/national Brazilian ones and the imports of Euro-American cultural hegemony (cf the samples that made funk so popular up North in the first place: The Smiths, Tetris, The Clash, The Eurythmics, etc. etc.). That in turn makes it a distinctly postmodern musical form (this all relates to "Machine Gun Voices" -- I've already e-mailed to see if I can get permission to post it). But perhaps that bricolage is turning back over to pastiche? Part of the naive pleasure was that the older samples, as far as anyone could ascertain (or so Jace told me), probably came from black market bootleg tapes. As such, the DJs mashing them into funk tracks had no idea what kind of iconic status Morrisey carried to legions of kids who wanted to go out tonight but didn't have a stitch to wear. Now, as Adriana showed me, with Internet access readily enough available, a funk version of Madonna's "Hung Up" is being made in Rio, rather than by some bedroom DJ with a copy of FL studio and too much time on his hands. [desperate for mp3s, I know, she's giving me some next week.]
And so a quick overview turned into a much longer one. I have more to say (always, always), re: history and narratives, codes, porous borders, and all kinds of shit that's going to bore you and be a treasure trove for me when thesis time comes around. [speaking of treasure, those are of course her words in the title. in other words, samba is so 1955.]

One quick mp3 before I take a baile nap (would be a disco nap, but tonight I'm not going to a disco . . .) and prepare for my first foray into funk in the flesh. Here's a track by Mr. Catra, who's gravelly voice I figured made him the Mark E. Smith of funk. Adriana, however, says it's just that he shoots it to hell by performing at 3, 4, or even 5 shows a night. (and I thought I had misunderstood the Portuguese when his manager wrote me back and offered to have me accompany him to a night of shows.) Frenetic, that's just how they do it down here.

Mr Catra - "Mamada Safada"

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First Night in Rocinha

[no, the picture has nothing to do with Rocinha. but as you'll read, I'm in a good mood and thought something leafy & green from the Jardim Botânico would be nice.]

So all that negativity from a post back? Forget it, because right after that, just about all of my lobs into the dark came back golden. Shit is on from here out.

Let's start with Rocinha, Rio's largest favela (estimated at 150,000-300,000 residents). Rogerio, from the Fundação Dois Irmãos / Two Brothers Foundations finally got back to me on Tuesday. I called him that afternoon, and, presto: "Do you want to come see a class tonight?" All of a sudden, I was on a bus heading to Rocinha.

If I thought Rio was riotous, then I don't know what to call Rocinha. The entrance alone, a series of stalls called the pasarela, blanket access to the main road up the hill. They have the intensity of a bazaar, crowded & full of jockeying people, selling everything from food & drink to electronics to football jerseys to music -- didn't see any funk on a cursory glance, although I've been told even proibidão (funk that glorifies the drug gangs and as such is banned by the government) can be found there.

Entering Rocinha, I admit I only got a brief glimpse, as the school where the English classes are held was no more than 50 feet in. But it was enough of a glance to create plenty of first impressions. I noticed, for example, the tangles of wires running above the street, described as looking like "postmodern wire sculptures" in one article I read. Legacies of the gatos, those who pirated public services like electricity, they're still there, I imagine, because it doesn't make sense to remove infrastructure, however haphazard, once it's been put up (electric companies have since moved in to offer legal service).

The streets, too, pasarela aside, were a bustle of activity. Bars, lanchenetes, corner stores, kiosks, stalls. It was, all told, a vibrant community.

Compared to Leblon (five minutes -- a tunnel -- a mountain -- and utter separation), the sharpest contrast was definitely in layout. The asfalta (literally "asphalt," meaning middle- and upper-class areas, as compared to the morro, or "hill" of the favelas) is the world of landscaping, gated apartment buildings, 24 hour security, and other obvious luxuries. But it's also the world of right angles. Rocinha, by contrast, meets at any angle that's convenient. Sidestreets barely wide enough for two people to pass. A web as tangled as the wires that crisscross above them.

Convenient, too, that I should see Rocinha for the first time just as I start Edward Said's Orientalism. In the opening chapter, "Knowing the Oriental," he quotes Evelyn Baring, Lord Cromer, England's representatve in Egypt around the turn of the 20th century:

The European is a close reasoner; his statements of fact are devoid of any ambiguity; he is a natural logician, albeit he may not have studied logic; he is by nature sceptical and requires proof before he can accept the truth of any proposition; his trained intelligence works like a piece of mechanism. The mind of the Oriental, on the other hand, like his picturesque streets, is eminently wanting in symmetry.

I obviously don't want to analyze the differences between favela streets and the broad avenues of the wealthier parts of Rio in order to draw the same Orientalist conclusions, but they do reflect certain realities of urban development. The grid structure (which certainly doesn't hold everywhere -- it's plenty easy to get lost downtown) always comes from top-down planning, whether by a surveyor, landowner, or government. Easy to navigate, for commerce and convenience. But the sinuous network of the favela was built from the bottom-up, without land ownership or government planning, designed (or perhaps not designed, but naturally developing) like a code to be understood only by those who live there. Not welcoming to visitors because visitors usually mean bad news (police, rival gangs).

And, moreover, that insider knowledge turns into a tactical advantage, practiced the world over in similarly vulnerable urban communities. A lesson learned by the French during The Battle of Algiers as they tried to penetrate the Casbah (no wonder then, "Bonde de Casbah," the funk track that samples The Clash -- can be heard in Diplo's "Favela on Blast"; will have a stand-alone mp3 soon), Americans in Mogadishu and Baghdad, and police to this day across Rio's hillsides. Politics aside, the moral is the same: Such local communities are not to be fucked with.

So I tread lightly thus far, hope to be able to bring my camera along soon (although Google image search turns up a bundle). Rogerio is taking me to Rocinha's radio station this afternoon, where they broadcast funk, of course. On Friday night I will be going to my first real baile, at Cantagalo, c/o Maga Bo and Adriana Pittigliani (more on her later).

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Saturday, July 22, 2006

But Where's the Funk?

It's Saturday night, and I'm sure that if I listen hard enough in a few hours, a bass beat or two will trickle down from the hills. Unfortunately, I won't be on the scene to tell you more about it.

Three weeks in and I feel like I've made minimal progress. Granted, my Portuguese is improving, even if I don't admit it, and that will be invaluable in the month to come. Class, too, has been more time-consuming than I expected, and will also be out of the way come August. But I'm only going be able to make the best of my home stretch in Rio if I lay the groundwork for it now (and I'm beginning to think I should have started well before leaving the States). My original goal was to volunteer to teach English in Rocinha with the Dois Irmãos / Two Brothers Foundation, which offers cross-cultural opportunities to Rocinha's residents. I was initially very excited about this prospect, as Two Brothers was founded by Paul Sneed, a professor at San Diego St. University who wrote his doctoral thesis on funk. (Entitled "Machine Gun Voices: Bandits, Favelas, and Utopia in Brazilian Funk," he very kindly sent me a copy, which I'm going to wade through soon).

However, after several inquiries, the first of which I wrote over two weeks ago, I still haven't heard back from the local contacts in Rocinha he told me to e-mail. I'm still hopeful that something will work out with Two Brothers (Prof Sneed told me in one e-mail that the next session of classes starts in August, and right now it's winter vacation for a lot of students, so perhaps that explains the lack of response). However, rather than sit around and wait, I realized I've got to start exploring other leads. To that end, I've been in touch with our program coordinator at PUC, who in turn is going to put me in touch with the people responsible for PUC's community outreach efforts in Rocinha. It's better than nothing, but I'd rather be affiliated with an institution from inside Rocinha than from a large university (and one, which I've been told, has a reputation for being a rich kid school).

I also fired off an e-mail to this cat, who lives in Rio and definitely reps all things Brazilian musically speaking. As it turns out, he's currently in Zanzibar, working on his own efforts at digging up fresh beats. I won't to get meet him in person, but hopefully he'll be able to offer some suggestions/contacts/tips/anything.

Unfortunately, I don't even know something as simple as whether or not I could walk into Rocinha and go buy music safely. I'm aware of all the claims that life in the favelas is just that -- life, people living there & going about their daily lives without too much trouble most of the time (cf Robert Neuwirth's excellent "Shadow Cities" -- he lived in Rocinha for several months as part of the research for that book, also put me in touch with Prof Sneed in the first place, also has a very regularly updated blog that's in the permanent links to the right). And I believe them, too. But given my Portuguese and my skin tone, I'd rather follow Robert's initial advice: "Go in for the first time to meet somebody."

Oh, and my host's son, Gus, has some connections in the more well-to-do music scene. He DJs on occasion at a club just down the block called Melt (according to a recent Jornal do Brasil article, which I'm still trying to find online, Rua Rita Ludolf is one of the most desirable addresses in Rio . . . all the more reason to move to Botafogo next month). In particular, one of their resident DJs, Adriano, is a friend of Gus and supposedly knows a thing or two about the funk scene (I have heard that bailes tend to be open to all, not just to residents of the community in which they're held).

It may be one of the poshest clubs around, but when I was there my first weekend at Gus's invitation, there's was a solid half-hour to 45 minute funk set wedged between blocks of commercial house. Likewise when I wandered around my first night here and stumbled into an absolutely awful Mexican restaurant-cum-sorry excuse for a club, I was drawn in because I heard that funk bass emanating from the windows. A young & wealthy enough crowd (esp. if they're going out in Leblon), these kids knew every word and it was easily the music that got them the most animated the whole time I was there.

Not that I didn't know it before, but it's plainly obvious that funk is this city's music. From well-heeled clubs to car windows to radio waves, the city breaths funk. It seems to be universally accepted by those who like dance music of any kind, whatever their socio-economic status.

But for reasons linguistic, cultural, or otherwise . . . I haven't yet figured out how to get to the source.

I just got off the phone with a friend who, as we speak, is here waiting to see this tour. There's some fairly abiding irony in all this: I freely admit it was Diplo who brought funk to my ears in the first place -- and to the ears of a whole lot of other people, which is the phenomenon I'm theoretically down here to study. And while he's bringing Funk Light to the masses, I'm (vainly?) hoping for the real thing . . . but instead sitting here contemplating another night out in Lapa.

As a paean to what I hope is to come, I'll leave you with an mp3 recorded from the vinyl-only Sou Funk EP, those trademark horns that arguably started it all.

Unknown - "Rocky Theme"

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A Fortnight In: Rio -- Riotous

Rio is riotous. It grows everywhere. Flora erupts out of every crevice, and likewise people. The favelas, thanks to Rio's jarring juxtaposition of topography, are always proximal. Even if the social reality means that rich and poor, flatlander ("da asfalta") and hill-dweller ("do morro"), are worlds apart, they never are spatially, which makes the inequity all that much harder to ignore. A quick drive through town, especially via highway, and you'll spot the familiar outcropping of corrugated roof buildings, the daring architecture of making-do. From the incredible vantage points of the city's landmarks, Corcovador (site of the famous statue of Cristo Redentor, which I felt obliged to snap) and Pao de Açucar (Sugarloaf Mountain), it's easy to get mesmerized by the beaches, the ocean, Maracana, and the upward thrust of the city's lateral sprawl. But pay closer attention and you'll spot 20-35% (estimates vary) of the city's population precariously nestled on every spare hillside (even on the way up to Corcovar, where the train passes Morro do Ingles, Englishman's Hill).

A asfalta, too, is fascinating, a vibrant display of creativity in what is clearly a city with a hands-off government, at least when it comes to zoning (policing is another matter). Lanchonetes (snack bar counters) dot nearly every corner, even in posh neighborhoods. Street vendors well set up a table anywhere they like, from the sidewalk along the entrance to PUC-Rio, where I'm currently taking classes, to an absurdly long line outside of a club, offering partygoers the chance to drink outside and save a few bucks.

The buses, in particular, are a marvel to behold. Used to the monopoly of the MBTA, I was shocked that Metro Rio has competitors. Hell, in my neighborhood, where the actual subway doesn't even reach, Metro Rio hardly accounts for 5% of the buses I see. Instead, it's a flurry of different companies & prices, the number stew of bus routes, a placard in the window with a quick run-down of neighborhood stops. At certain times of day on Avenida Adaulfo de Paiva, which runs right below my window, there are far more buses than cars. And then there are the vans, which pull up alongside any cluster of people (actual bus stops, while extant, are by no means necessary -- simply hailing a bus as you would a taxi is typical), slide open the door, shout out a list of destinations, load any takers, and keep moving. Red lights, I might add, are merely a suggestion.

Riotous. Policeman carrying assault rifles and wearing flak jackets. Nothing like an AR-15 to wake you from an early morning daze.

Riotous. At night I stroll the praia de Leblon, populated after the beachgoers leave by runners & lovers. As late as ten, I've seen a girl's soccer camp in full swing. Returning to my host's apartment, the favela Vidigal looms large, ablaze with lights and looking for all the world like it will slide off into the ocean.

Riotous. I sleep with the windows open, city sounds I know & love punctuated by staccato bursts. Firecrackers or gunshots? I can't yet tell the difference.

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Friday, July 14, 2006

Tying up loose ends: St. Martin FM

Almost two weeks into my stay in Rio & have plenty to say, but before I do, I want to make some brief comments on where I was before coming down to Brasil: St-Martin/Sint Maarten. It's more or less your typical Caribbean holiday destination, with an economy dependent on (and currently thriving on) tourism, as it's far too small to have much in the way of industry or natural resources. As such, it's also too small to have many of the same social problems that plague the likes of Haiti, Cuba, and Jamaica. It may be apocryphal, but I've always been under the impression that the island has 100% employment (at the very least, while some residents are poor, there is nothing I've ever seen in the way of grinding poverty or homelessness).

It's one somewhat interesting claim to fame, however, is that it's the smallest island in the world to be partitioned between two nations. In this case, the Dutch and the French.

The distinction isn't massively important -- the border doesn't consist of much more than a sign (see above), a la crossing a state line, and on an island of this size you're likely to cross it several times a day. However, such proximity does sharply contrast the cultural differences between the two.

The French side is actual French soil, as the commune de St-Martin is part of the departement d'outre mer of Guadeloupe. They use the euro, they're EU citizens, they vote in French elections. In short, the exact same political rights and privileges as someone living in Paris. Consequently, the ever-cushy French welfare state takes care of St-Martin pretty well, such that it's not over-developed, maintains some architectural consistency, and is generally a little slice of Gallic paradise in the Caribbean (the food can't be beat). Again, too small to produce the firebrands of francophone thought along the lines of Aime Cesaire, Frantz Fanon, or Maryse Conde. [which certainly make Martinique and Guadeloupe far more interesting places in a world-historical sense, but this is family vacation and besides, I didn't have much of a say.]

If the French use the long arm of the government to keep things, well, French, then the Dutch, as expected, do the exact opposite: they let capitalism run wild. Part of the Netherlands Antilles (hope you can read Dutch), Sint-Maarten still uses the Antillean guilder of all bizarre currencies, although the entire island never turns down the Yankee dollar. More autonomous than the French commune, the NA's eyes are clearly flush with dollar signs and in the last several years development has been occurring at a breakneck pace (although at least one voice is suggesting some restraint). Between the cruise ship hordes descending upon Philipsburg's duty-free stores to rape and pillage with their Visas to the glitz of casinos, the Dutch side has always had a certain middlebrow air.

Maybe it's the boom of the last couple years or maybe I've just wised up to it after visiting for so many years, but the Dutch side of the island is becoming an ersatz Vegas. Its status as a shopping and gambling mecca is joined by a further injection of Americana courtesy of the excessive strip mall that now characterizes the first couple miles in either direction of the airport, populated by the likes of Ric's Place and Soprano's Piano Bar (I'm sure a few HBO execs wouldn't be pleased by that wholesale logo appropriation).

American hegemony, cultural and otherwise, in the Caribbean has been SOP since at least the Monroe Doctrine, but it's still a marvel (and not necessarily a good one) to watch a place slowly turned into an American middlebrow theme park. [as urban critic Dave Hickey argues, Vegas is the vast, green middle of the American self.]

Moreover, as I can't help but notice, this dialectic also plays out musically. Rental cars are the best way to get around, and while I'll confess that I did bring an iPod/tape adapter on occasion, I've had years to get acquainted with the radio band down there. The Dutch side's strongest signal, Laser 101, follows its nose up north to come up with a top 10 that's probably cribbed straight from last month's charts on Hot 97 with a token rock track thrown in (this year it's the Chili Peppers).

French radio, however, offers an interesting pastiche. Between St-Martin's chief broadcaster, Radio Calypso, and neighboring St-Barthelemy's Radio St-Barth, the listener shuttles between the region's chief cultural hegemons. Sure, the U.S. looms large and there's always a pop hit or two that's played several times a day (in this case Shakira & Wyclef's "Hips Don't Lie", whose Caribbean tint I'm sure doesn't hurt its reception; I realize a Colombian and a Haitian do not an American make, but in production and marketing they sure do). They jostle alongside the latest from France -- usually a mix of ballads and house tracks (Bob Sinclair's "World Hold On" was unstoppable) -- and then choice Anglo-American house from the last couple of years. [with the French holding the house banner so high, you'd think "acieeeeeeeeed" was first yelled with a French accent] Last year's house-remix-of-classic-rock format is still popular, and I heard plenty of 2005 faves Max Graham vs. Yes - "Owner of a Lonely Heart" and Deep Dish ft. Stevie Nicks - "Dreams" (the latter made for a perfect 6 am closer to a dawn drive home and according to my brother, Stevie re-recordedcorded the lyrics in the studio where the original Fleetwood Mac song was cut). Finally, Jamaica can't be left out: Vybz Kartel's "Rich Rich Rich" was definitely the dancehall song I head the most over the airwaves.

Reggaeton, as the current musique du plume of the Caribbean, was largely absent from the FM dial, although that's not a total mystery given the lack of Spanish-speaking islands in the immediate vicinity. There were some car soundsystems pumping CDs (as evidenced by the occasional skipping track) on a Sunday at Mullet Bay, although eventually some jerk had to overpower it with what I think was soca (sorry, but I'll take snares over brass any day).

As a final note, I'm focusing so much on the radio because if there's a local music scene in St. Martin, I utterly failed to come across it (and in truth didn't look very hard in the first place). My brother and his wife, on the other hand, who made friends with an incredibly friendly security guard at the island's mega-club (a little present of some hard to find NBA gear goes along way; Gilbert Arenas, bringing people together), got invited to the Bad Boy Party on the day that I left. Apparently held in the heart of Philipsburg, it was a local soundsystem featuring dancehall and reggaeton MCs. He reports that it was top-notch with pumping 15-ft speakers and a one-story stack of mids and subs. Friendly enough that they earned a "Shout out to my white boy and his blond girl chillin' in the place." It's refreshing to hear that even in the depths of Philipsburg, there's still enough local creativity to resist the complete Vegasification of "the Friendly Island."

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Friday, July 07, 2006

Introduction: Defining Terms

Beat n. Music.
A steady succession of units of rhythm.
The air is flush with beats, steady rhythms emanating from the headphones and stereos and soundsystems and synthesizers and mouths a whole world over. I like most of them that I come across, especially of the electronic variety. From head-nodding ambient sounds to four-to-the-floor bangers, I'm a beat omnivore, consuming beats wherever I find them. And, more importantly, wanting to know where they came from once they get in my greedy ears.

Diaspora n.
[when a group is] dispersed throughout other parts of the world, and the ensuing developments in their dispersal and culture.
A loaded word, to be sure. Both chosen for that reason and not. The original meaning is a little too biblical for my needs. The term as it is used in the context of "diaspora studies" (Google to get just about every displaced ethnicity under the sun) is certainly valid, but does demand a certain politicized history -- who initiated the diaspora, who suffered because of it? I'm not disputing the importance of such questions, and I know this use of the word will apply to some of the music and places about which I write.

However, I'm not sticking only to music produced by marginalized communities. As such, the open definition quoted above strikes me as the best for right now. An umbrella, big-tent definition: beats for all! A meritocracy of beats. As long as they sound good to me, whether it lead to just toe-tapping or all out ass-shaking, I get curious.

Where does the music come from and why? What kind of communities foster it? That's a grandiose question for ethnomusicologists to answer, but I will say as much: I'm convinced that urban spaces foster a particular kind of music (often electronic, often beat-based) that reflects and responds to the conditions of that space.

Intentionally vague, I know, but the blog is here to fill in the gaps.

With what? With funk, to start. I'm kicking this off seven floors up in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. The national obsession may be on the sidelines in advance of Sunday's World Cup final and it may technically be winter (although the weather begs to differ, at least to my Northeast-hardened skin), but I'm gonna heat it up as best I can in my attempts to uncover the latest and freshest of Rio's homegrown hip-hop. Along the way, I hope to determine what influence, if any, its popularity up North as of the last couple years has had (you know, the kind of popularity that brought a gringo like me down here in the first place). How has the music changed? Its reception in Rio changed? And at the bailes where it all goes down in the first place?

We'll see where two months in a cidade maravilhosa can lead, with as much audio, video, pictures, and comment I can bring to the table.

[big ups of inspiration & encouragement to this class taught by this guy, as well as this associated crew and their ex-pat ex-cohort.]

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