[Apologies for disappearing off the face of the earth, but just as I've had more time, I've been stuck wih an new apartment that doesn't have Internet. The view may be great, but it also means keeping this blog updated has become a herculean task. Expect a couple week lag time on events, but I've got them all backlogged in my head and will try and get it current at least by my first week back in the States.]
A week after my first baile at Cantagalo, I returned for a second go around. It's amazing how quickly what at first had me on edge gave way to agreement with MC Gringo's sarcastic comment that Cantagalo is "baile chique." That is, Cantagalo's prime Zona Sul real estate brings a lot more partygoers da asfalta and in turn dulls some of the punch of their baile (still trying to get to one of the more intense proibdão bailes in Zona Norte, but it's not that easy).
In particular, DJ Fernandinho of Big Mix appears to be the resident -- insofar as playing two weeks in a row is any indication. As I've come to realize, though, I don't particularly like the Big Mix style. For those who aren't aware, Big Mix is the radio program hosted by DJ Marlboro on a commercial FM station. I've heard rumors of 500,000 listeners a minute, but that could be hyperbole. Regardless, it's a big deal, both culturally & economically. In addition to the show, Big Mix is an equipe with several DJs that play out during the weekend.
Fernandinho, unfortunately, can't seem to separate the radio style from a baile. As a radio personality myself, I'm not knocking it intrinsically, but it's clearly not that right format for a party. There's very little mixing and lots of pauses between tracks that amount to nothing more than commercial breaks: hyping whatever's coming up on Big Mix radio this week or announcing a Big Mix party the following weekend. In other words, I don't think it's radio per se he's trying to import, but rather the more commercial trappings of Big Mix as a brand. (FYI, having seen other DJs who don't work for commercial radio, I can say that while it's ok to pause every handful of tracks to make an announcement, Fernandinho definitely abuses the privilege).
It's worth noting though, that despite Big Mix's mainstream success, they still play proibidão at the bailes (the illegal style that most certainly isn't acceptable in the public forum). It's not surprising, of course, because the funkeiros eat it up. I was on stage with MC Leka and her husband, Céliu, and when a song came on praising the Comando Vermelho (the drug gang that controls Cantagalo), the entire baile threw their hands up in the CV gang sign: thumb and forefinger on each hand, one making a 'C' and the other a 'V.' Needless to say, I didn't feel comfortable participating, but I think Céliu took this as me not understanding the gesture, and so took it upon himself to teach me how. Awkward, to say the least, but it probably was more suspicious not to be doing it.
It also speaks to how ingrained the gangs have become as an element of popular culture. Céliu lives in the Baixada, the suburbs north of town. While there are favelas up that way, his neighborhood is under police control. He's got no allegiance to the CV, other than working for an equipe who sometimes plays CV bailes. And I'm sure that not all of the people at the baile were CV fans -- judging by the dress, as I said, I'm sure plenty weren't from the favelas and normally wouldn't have very kind words to say about the CV.
But proibidão has definitely woven itself into the fabric of funk. MCs will gain popularity on the probidão circuit and then cut a cleaner version for radio play. I posted Mr Catra's "Mamada Safada" a few weeks ago, having found it for free download on a funk website. Then, while sorting through my haul of CDs from Uruguiana market the other day, I came across an uncredited track -- although the voice is clearly Catra's -- called "Mamada Ingrata" on Porradão das Favelas -- Agosto.
Mr Catra - "Mamada Ingrata"
It's a proibidão comp, probably the freshest that's available on CD right now. A "porrada" is girias (slang) for a fight, then adding -ão to the end is an intensifier. So my rough, slang-equivalent translation would be: "Big Favela Throw-Down -- August."
I'm sure the track they played that got the crowd riled up will never be heard on Big Mix radio, but that doesn't keep it from getting played at bailes. Even the most popular equipe, then, can straddle both sides of the fence. It's at points like these where the border between the favelas and the rest of the city breaks down. Sure, favelados work & play outside of the favela every day, but arguably in a much more subservient relationship than in funk, where caricoas will come up for bailes, where MCs get their start before getting radio hits.
I hung around Cantagalo nonetheless, especially since Leka got the chance to sing again. Turns out I was wrong about the previous week: another MC sang proibidão. Leka has a more playful style, singing about being a female funkeira, having a husband who works for an equipe.
The capricious nature of bailes still perplexes me: rarely is a gig settled upon, and so you wait & wait & hope for the best. Gringo called it a night and got unlucky; Leka stayed out and something came of it. They were ecstatic, too -- she was paid R$ 50, which she told me was more than Céliu makes in a week of working for the equipe. Funk pays the bills, what can I say.
Finally, my first hand at recording. Gringo and Leka traded some rhymes in his apartment before we went up to Cantagalo. I haven't had the time to master Audacity yet, so I'm afraid this is an unedited cut. In other words, Leka's son, Dudu, makes an unintended guest appearance in the background toward the beginning. I'll clean it up and perhaps repost it when I get the chance.
MC Leka & Mc Gringo Impromptu (8/8/06)
When they finished, a few kids from the apartment building across the street had heard our little jam session and were leaning out the window trying to bust a move. I'm afraid I didn't get a picture, but here's a quick teaser from the next post, a baile where I took more audio, video, and pictures than I probably have bandwidth for.