The Echoing Sounds of Baile Funk

Across the road and down the hill from where we live is a comunidade or favela. On weekends the sounds can be heard thumping and echoing throughout the night. For me it’s like the Pied Piper is calling. I often feel a pull inside me to go, to just start walking down the hill, out the gate following my ears, my heart, following that sound, that siren song emerging from below, that wonderful vibrant sound that beckons, come, come home. It’s hard to explain but it feels familiar, very familiar, like this is a rhythm that part of my DNA knows and so baldy wants to dance to, to rejoin.

Tied tightly to my mast, so far, I’ve stayed put. MGFI watches, covering her ears. She shakes her head, immune to the call. Interestingly, she had loved to play cultural anthropologist in America. Driving through devastated post-strip-mined West Virginia coal country, she marveled at the formica diner tabletops, her eyes widening, amazed by the land that time and big business used and then abandoned, where only poverty, black lung, meth and oxycodine remain. She went to trailers in Appalachia with partygoers with rifles, Jack Daniels and possible KKK alliances, fearless and she strode confidently along trails where homeless men, bears, snakes and wolves roamed. In Richmond, to her ( to us both), there was no “bad” part of town, every rib joint, clam seller, bingo pallor with a man outside drinking from a bottle in a paper bag was an adventure. In Florida, she had sold t-shirts with some ethically questionable bosses and in Spain she had jumped from hostel to hostel, proudly walking down tiny streets through the dark nights in neighborhoods before they were safe, revitalized, hipster territory.

Now, here, the thought of going to the other part of her home, is unthinkable. Raised in Ipanema, the “other side of tracks” so to speak, carries it’s own aura, weight. It’s not just her. Papers here talk about how foreigners are moving into and loving the favelas, especially the ones now “pacified” by the UPPs. But, some locals still see divisions and would prefer them to remain in place. Some seem to feel threatened by the increased accessible of Rio to all, everyone. The subways bring “the others” to malls to the beaches in increasing numbers. There’s a palpable tension at times. Perhaps I would see it differently if it were my home. I don’t know. But I do know that, things are changing. I can hear it …and it’s calling me.

One night from here on my perch I wrote this:

The Echoing Sounds of Baile Funk

The sounds echoing from the favelas at night are chaotic, like a CD skipping and stuck on play, pounding, driving and plunging froward unable to be removed form the player with their banging, electric, hot, repeated thumping. They conjure images of bodies doing the same in the darkness inetmintemly interrupted by flashes of lights in buildings without window panes made of clay bricks without plaster. They burst forth and explode loudly, energetically popping with quick cuts form one song snippet to another often with several sounds overlapping in an odd frantic dissonance that encapsulate a terminal in rush hour; A voice crying out here, a horn blaring there, a vendor yelling over a display TV blaring a soccer game while an impromptu crowd has gathered around the screen cheering; The sounds of a woman in an upstairs apartment moaning in the arms of her lover as a man walks by below on cracked sidewalks obliviously yelling into his cell phone while side stepping trash and fecies, as bus brakes screech and wheeze and musicians gently strum on acoustic guitars on corners while others frantically bang drums and found objects. Passing car loud speakers announce a sale to end all sales. Everything most go, the firesale is happening during the actual fire. All of these noises rise like flames licking at the heels of those looking down upon them, crackling down to those below them, riding the wind and colliding slamming violently into one another and sonically melting in the heat generated by the newly fueled motions and sharp shifting friction filled collisions. These sounds of old, new and everything produced in between, gathered, collected, consumed and spit back out blended, as a new creation of hyper staccato sound which pulsates, swells and is unmistakably alive.


Outside Reading: Branding Favelas

Fascinating post on a truly excellent blog- Get thee to a favela, says ad agency on Rio real

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