That whole “World Cup” thing aside, this week is a big one for Brazil. Two of the country’s most enjoyable musical exports of late, CSS and Bonde Do Role, are embarking upon a nationwide tour with a noted dinosaur DJ friend of ours (we’re not the judgemental type, but if you miss these shows you’re a real goober). Also, CSS’s debut album is in record stores as of today. Like we said: BIG WEEK! There’s an article about the two groups and their art-damaged pop sonics in the latest FADER, so we figured it’d be nice and timely to reprint the story for you kind folks after the jump. Also, check music from CSS and Bonde on our summer issue podcast mix.
Fourth Wave Impact
The complicated stateside arrival of art school baile funk
By Julianne Shepherd
Over the past two years, baile funk—or funk carioca, as it is known in the favelas of Brazil that gave birth to it—has been increasingly prevalent in America thanks to a handful of DJs, compilation CDs, magazines like this one and club nights in New York, Philly and San Francisco. Philadelphia’s Diplo has famously been a mainline from Rio’s hoods to the US and Europe, wielding mixtapes like Favela On Blast, acting as DJ ambassador, remixing tracks like Edu K’s “Popozuda Rock & Roll,” and touring with longtime funk DJ Marlboro. Yet while Marlboro is one of Rio funk’s biggest figures, playing on-air to hundreds of thousands of listeners in favelas and beyond over FM radio, Diplo’s current import from Brazil is baile funk-related, but something different altogether: a rowdy group of art schoolers that goes by the name Bonde do Role. This summer, Bonde do Role (from Curitiba, Brazil and signed to Diplo’s label Mad Decent) and Cansei de Ser Sexy (a new rock band from Sao Paolo, signed to Sub Pop) are striking out on tour in America.
Cansei de Ser Sexy is a heavily eyelined, pop-culture obsessed, electro-rock dance band with full-on live instrumentation and far less of a connection to baile funk than their tourmates. The band exuberantly crosses both the literal and cultural language barrier by singing punky songs in English about universal concerns (music, sex) and American “icons” (Paris Hilton). Bonde do Role, meanwhile, came into being at—and took its name from—a Curitiba restaurant called the Lanches Rolê, a greasy spoon that became an unlikely cultural end zone last year when Bonde’s two DJs (Rodrigo Gorky and Pedro d’Eryot) and its fist-fighting waitress-turned-MC (Marina Ribatski) found inspiration in the music piped through the diner speakers. “Lanches Rolê has this ’80s/’90s hard rock-oriented playlist on the stereo,” says Gorky. “Bands like Nirvana, Led Zeppelin and the Doors are still huge. We came up with this concept of making the tracks [by] sampling the stuff we kept hearing there.”
The members of Bonde all grew up listening to favela funk, which has been mainstreaming first inside and now outside of Brazil at a tortoise’s pace for a solid decade. As a result, the group’s music—with its kitschy samples, booty bass beats, and Ribatski’s riot grrrl screaming—shares in funk’s pastiche aesthetic, although the execution is tongue in cheek. They supplant funk’s samples (from James Brown to the Rocky theme) with their own triple-x-tra grunge overlay (Alice In Chains, Smashing Pumpkins, the Darkness). They also defang funk carioca’s ass-fixation by taking it to scatological levels. “Imagine John Waters’ early movies and you’ll get most of it,” explains d’Eyrot.
That Diplo is bringing a funk-influenced group with a penchant for kitsch to the stateside stage rather than a proper funk artist seems to be the product of a host of concerns including the aesthetic, cultural, business-oriented and practical-minded. It also has to do with Diplo’s own status in the genre, in Brazil and in the favela. “It’s about accessibility, I guess,” Diplo says. “Me and Bonde do Role are both really part of that fourth wave of funk. I’m not gonna be tellin any real proper funk dudes how to try a weird or new concept—it’s just unnatural and the culture there is solid. But with Bonde, we are [trying those things].” Since his emergence with the mighty Hollertronix, this has been Diplo’s forte: discover, adopt, re-contextualize and push onwards. Frontiers, not sources, are the concern. “I like to think of Bonde as the Talking Heads of the Amazon or some kinda Beastie Boys, with their real silly loud metal and loud drums kinda perspective,” Diplo says. “They are the essence of this new vibe in Brazil.”