Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Daily Swarm - New Genre Alert - U.K Funky

Funky, sometimes referred to as UK Funky, is the newest musical genre/style/trend to come out of urban England’s extremely fertile dance scene—mixing as it does aspects of Britain’s so-called ‘hardcore continuum’ with house music and electronic dance musics from Africa and the Caribbean.

The ‘hardcore continuum’ is a term referring to a theoretical (yet very real) lineage in English dance music after Jungle—encompassing UK garage, 2step, broken beat, grime, yard and dubstep, among possible others. (A philosophical debate led by the term’s originator, critic Simon Reynolds, about what exactly is the ‘continuum’ has raged among British beats thinkers on the internet; if interested, begin here).

What’s undeniable is that musicians, producers and clubs who have formerly been involved with dubstep, grime and UK garage, have all embraced house’s 4/4 beat (and more specifically, an Afro-house groove), marrying it to the arrhythmic tendencies of their prior work and creating a joyous new dance vibe and culture. Among the leading names in funky are DJ Marcus Nasty (formerly of the grime Nasty Crew), Apple (who was responsible for some early funky productions), Crazy Cousins (whose “Bongo Jam” was a considerable street hit in the UK in 2008), and Geeneus (another early adapting DJ/producer who also happens to be a principle in the legendary pirate radio station Rinse FM and the club-night FWD, both of which have previously championed grime and dubstep and now rep for funky).


Alerting readers of its existence in August of 2008, The Guardian‘s music blogger John McDonnell wrote of Funky:

It is split between tame and tacky cod-soul diva-smothered house that aspires to mimic the assumed classiness of New York house, and harder, more syncopated beats that recall everything from grime to broken beat to soca. The former is wholly unremarkable, but the latter is probably the most exciting development in UK music since garage became grime over half a decade ago. Some beats sound like tribal house disfigured by eight-bar grime arrangements and Caribbean and African percussion; others are simply broken beat in disguise – but without the stigma of association with 30-year-old fans from west London who enjoy telling people about their penchant for “jazz cigarettes”….It would be unfair to tie it too closely to broken beat, though. This is something that is new and constantly developing; I can hear early jungle, two-step, dancehall and even rave influences.

Then again in February of 2009, McDonnell discussed dubstep stagnation and just who has become ensnared in funky here:

[Dubstep’s] current stagnation has resulted in a diaspora of disgruntled dubstep fans, who’ve traveled into more rhythmically interesting territories, like the burgeoning London-centric urban house scene known as funky. Led by dubstep demi-god Kode9, producers and fans are looking to the funky scene for inspiration. Funky producers have a penchant for intricate and broken Latin, African and Caribbean percussion and produce tracks at a more house-friendly sub-130bpm.

In an interview published in FACT March 13, 2009, Kode 9 deconstructs the roots of funky:

“… All this stuff, funky, bassline, two-step, grime, dubstep, is all part of the inter-connected, post-garage world of underground music in the UK. You don’t have to like everything within one niche or another. I can’t remember how I got into funky – probably listening to some sets in the little room at FWD/Rinse at The End early in 2008. I just noticed instantly how much better the dancing and vibe was when the UK house came on, as opposed to what was happening in the big room at that time. The funky house scene, as far as I’m aware, was probably where the more soulful side of UKG went – I think some people used to call it urban house – when its moodier or more aggressive side went into grime and dubstep. No doubt it wasn’t as interesting – it wasn’t for me, anyway – as it’s only recently that some grime producers have started experimenting with it [house]. It’s just a bit rawer and less tasteful, hopefully, although I think retaining the female vocal element is important.”

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