Funk, Culture and Technology

I have a latent interest about the transforming power of technology in regards to urban cultures. Growing up in Rio de Janeiro, you see a lot of different levels of society using the same technonologies in widely different ways, and more importantly is the art of the ‘gambiarra’, an invented, sampled, rehashed and remixed contraption made of hi-tech and lo-tech components for a particular purpose.  This article mentions the ‘traquitana’ and ‘gambiarra’ in terms of music and the world-famous funk carioca movement which uses technology to make a new sound that, according to the article, doesn’t necesarily fulfill the agenda of subservient usage of technology, but rather a subversive one. it is a mixture of tactical media, grassroots sounds and social movements. I like how the author has taken the effort to highlight different tactics used in different countries and several non-mainstream musical styles that have emerged partly due to the availability of technology.

If you are interested in the lyrics, I blogged a few lyrics overheard from my home in Rio de Janeiro years and years ago. In Portuguese. X-rated.

A fantastic image of a Baile Funk by my photographer friend Dani Dacorso, a great photographer from Rio de Janeiro who has a fabulous photo-essay on funk carioca culture, a world she knows deeply.

Excerpt below.

What In The World Is “Global Ghettotech”: Radical Riddims or Neo-Exotica?

Submitted by Thomas Bey William Bailey on Thu, 03/11/2010 – 09:17(…)….there is something awkward and inconsistent about championing universal access to technology, further championing indigenous populations’ ability to “make it their own,” and then standing aghast when they “make it their own” in a way that deviates from the ‘champion’s’ wishes. Taking a somewhat more nuanced approach is ghettotech booster DJ Rupture, saying of the inflammatory ghettotech presentation that

“…if you want to talk politics, follow the money. If you want to talk politics in music, follow the distribution- see who benefits from what. Imagine a ‘socially-conscious’ funk carioca hit…owned by a Westerner who profits from it while the artist gets underpaid. The song appears to be good & politically just, but it is simply an extension of an old colonial relationship. So examining lyrics won’t answer any questions of power.”

As important as the question of this music’s political allegiances, though, is the degree to which its creators accept the term: is “global ghettotech” a term that’s only going to have currency in those places where it isn’t made? Admittedly, the term suffers from the same over-simplification as the original “world music.” For one, the global ghettotech map of the ghetto-ized globe is a little incomplete. Extremely populous mainland China is conspicuously absent, owing perhaps to poor documentation of a party / dance infrastructure at which its own local strain of bass culture can be observed- unless we count phenomena like the hotel-sized karaoke ‘clubs’ of cities like Shenzhen. Meanwhile, by Mike Davis’ own admission in Planet of Slums, “the fastest-growing slums are in the Russian Federation (especially ex-“socialist company towns” dependent on a single, now-closed industry) and the former Soviet republics”6. The lucrative black market weapons trade in these post-Soviet territories also, in an odd way, waters the global ghettotech tree, providing musical sponsors like the PCC / Comando Vermelho axis with potent arsenals of large-caliber arms, even anti-aircraft weapons. Electronic dance culture took an unexpected and largely ignored detour into the Balkans –another region thrown into socio-economic chaos upon the Soviet collapse- in the 1990s. (…)

Read more in Vague Terrain

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