The World Cup Soundtrack

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FavelaThe volume rattles the bones. The gyrations evoke scenes of lustful abandon. In some of funk’s most explicit forms, tracks sprinkled with the prerecorded sounds of machine-gun fire exalt the drug gangs still in control of some of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas. On certain nights, the bass from the amps resonates from the hillside slums into the bastions of the privileged classes, as if to remind them: Rio doesn’t belong just to you.

Funk’s varied repertory provides an apt soundtrack for the changes sweeping across the city after the recent boom that lifted incomes and ushered in the era of megaevents like this month’s World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, while also accentuating longstanding inequality. Samba, forbidden by the authorities about a century ago in much the same way that varieties of funk are prohibited today, has developed into such an establishment fixture that big corporations now underwrite carnival compositions. Bossa nova, the breezy fusion of samba and jazz, seems just too genteel for these times. But funk — often aggressive, sensual, vulgar, narcissistic, anti-establishment and eminently adaptable to Brazil’s shifting political mood — is thriving.

Not to be confused with the kind of American funk popularized by James Brown in the 1960s, Brazilian funk is thought to have crystallized in the 1980s, when favela musicians in Rio drew inspiration from the hip-hop sounds and explicit lyrics of Miami bass. The result was a genre rooted in the lawlessness of the slums. Funk singers were criticized from the start for their hypersexualized, violence-soaked lyrics, but they long defied attempts to tame the genre.

Read more at The New York Times.