SIFF ’09 review – Favela on Blast


Favela on Blast, directed by Leandro HBL and Wesley Pentz (a.k.a. Diplo) (Brazil, 2009) 80 min.
Festival Screenings:

May 24, 2009 5:00 PM, SIFF Cinema
May 25, 2009 9:30 PM, SIFF Cinema

review by masakaman

Years ago, Samba was born as African slave dance music in the favelas, or Brazilian shantytowns. Some called it the original ghetto music, discriminated by society and authority. Samba today is one of the most popular musical styles in Brazil, and Baile Funk (or Favela Funk), which combines 80’s American funk sounds to the Brazilian styles in a hyperfrenetic mix, is what samba was for slums of Rio de Janeiro. As heard in the documentary Favela on Blast, “The first thing kids learn in the Favela is Funk Culture. Funk is a movement, Funk is a feeling, Funk is a safety valve for crime and prostitution, a catalyst for faith, joy, sensuality, love, and sex.”

Baile Funk was influenced by Miami Bass (with roots back to Kraftwerk and Africa Bambata). DJ Battery Brain’s “Voltmix” (1988) was the one of the first tracks inspired by this funk sound. After Brazilian beat makers fused this sound with Samba, rhythms became Baile Funk. DJs spinning records on Technics 1200 turntables for dancers quickly adapted to playing their own beats on Akai MPC drum machine for funkers. In Baile Funk , the funk beat is topped with fearless raw samples as DJs hit the MPC, and Da-Bass rumbles the wall of stacked up speakers of the sound system.

Since 2001, many lyrical styles of Baile Funk have been produced: political, righteous, gangsta, and sexually pumping. There is similarity with early American Hip Hop in that Baile Funk lyrics are often criticized for being violent and sexually explicit, and in some case as misogynistic. But the Funk Beat is faster than Hip Hop, almost fast as House Music, of a BPM of around 120 to 125. This energy also resembles old school Funky Break Beat and Freestyle Beat (both different from Hip Hop terms of same name) from mid 90’s. In Baile Funk, you’ve got be a DIY to the core, building your own speakers and carrying them up to top of the hills in favelas. Don’t forget to sing a speaker song.

Favela on Blast is a documentary of the Baile Funk culture and sound. Directors Wesley Pentz (a.k.a. Diplo) and Leandro HBL visited 60 favelas and took 100 interviews with the members of Baile Funk scene. Diplo, who produced M.I.A.’s “Bucky Done Gun” crossover Brazilian funk hit in 2005, has been a strong supporter of Baile Funk. His talent shines especially during the set of performance sequences. The film covers variety of DJs and MCs comment. It moves at a nice tempo and the dancers are entertaining. Overall, I think it’s a good addition to the global electronic music library. I just wish they had included some voices from the audience at these parties and in the communities around.

We had scene like this once, here in the U.S. back in late 80’s to early/mid 90’s. Some of you were part of early days of parties at warehouses, house basements, and abandoned buildings. It was all word of mouth but you always saw the same bunch when and if you managed to get there. You might remember driving out to the pass on a full moon night, carrying your sound system and a box of records along a dark trail, dancing all night by the fire till dawn with people who gathered just to dance. Such moments can exist any time and anywhere.


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