November 4th, 2009

Is It Funky Enough?

When Guillaume was here last week, we discovered in conversation that we both had long been sitting on posts that centered on the question of Africanness and UK funky. I joked that we should both finally get around to finishing these posts and drop them on the same day, causing a ruckus on the ol’ ‘osphere, but then G went and jumped the gun (en frances) and here I am playing catch up ;)

Of course, since Guillaume wrote his post in French, I guess that leaves it to me to provide some, as they say in French, explication for the Anglophone side of things. I too have been interested in what Guillaume calls “la récupération du Funky par les jeunes africains vivant en Angleterre, qu’il soit de première ou de deuxième génération” — or, the reshaping/reclaiming of funky by African youth in England, whether 1st or 2nd gen — at least ever since Boima put me on to T-Boy’s hilarious “Don’t Jealous Me Funky.”

What’s interesting about Guillaume’s post — and different from where mine was focused — is that he’s looking at the actual participation in funky on the part of Africans in England, hearing the UK’s African (as opposed to Afro-Caribbean) heritage finally come into the mix, so to speak. As Guillaume points out, what makes the current crop of “African” funky tunes interesting is the explicit use — if often tongue-in-cheek — of African accents and other symbols (including traditional dress), esp if we compare to Afro-British artists like Dizzee or Tinchy who seem to speak with a more creolized (and often Jamaican, or Carib-cockney) accent. That all of this is happening in London at the same time that a new kind of Afro-kitsch permeates the global beat-o-sphere is curious to say the least.

At the same time, as we attempt to think through this stuff, we would do well to heed Dan Hancox’s warning

It’s unnecessarily reductive for us to posit the idea of Africa (e.g. ‘Donaeo’s ‘African Warrior’, and the potential but difficult-to-prove influence of Afro-house percussion) against the Carribean, in some kind of bizarre fight for the lion’s share of influence over funky, but these are issues worth thinking about.

Whether this phenomenon actually signals a shift in poco cultural politics for cool Britannia is a fascinating question, though it’s not what I would like to focus on in my own post. Rather, what caught my attention in the discourse around UK funky was the common projection of Africanness (prior to the likes of T-Boy) onto the genre even as it was simultaneously denied its “funkiness” (and there, as I’ll explain, we get into some fascinating differences between hearing Africanness and hearing African-Americanness). I still don’t feel like I have the time to give the big questions here the requisite attention. But in lieu of that, and in the interest in actually publishing this post and keeping the convo going, please accept my attempt at suggestion.

I noticed, many months ago now, that a lot of people have claimed that UK funky house is, in so many words, not really that funky. This is a funny position in a way, as it puts forward a certain essentialist notion of funk or funkiness — based, far as I can tell, on the sonic priorities of (African-)American funk circa the 70s — at a time when “funk” and “funky” are more loosed from that moor than ever.

I was particularly struck seeing this notion advanced by UK cultural theory heavyweight, Paul Gilroy (who has shaped my own thoughts and work around race and nation as much as anyone). In an email to Hancox, Gilroy appears to put forward a certain kind of essentialism (or is it anti-anti-essentialism?) about the ontology of funk — i.e., about what is truly funky, or what it means to, in his words, “bring the funk”:

We are moving towards an African majority which is diverse both in its cultural habits and in its relationship to colonial and postcolonial governance so the shift away from Caribbean dominance needs to be placed in that setting. Most of the grime folks are African kids, either the children of migrants or migrants themselves. It’s not clear what Africa might mean to them. Not all are Muslim. They are open to a US sourced version of black style and culture which is also contentious and repellent. Their ambivalence towards it is the key I’d guess. The Ethiopianist framing of a post-slave history means next to nothing to them, even as a generic signifier of human suffering and powerlessness. I suppose that Pokes’ ironic celebration and affirmation of the DJ lineage is a residual trace of that past. He is not Wiley, “Bashy” or African Boy.

I am an agnostic when it comes to the “rudeness” comparison. I suppose my basic difficulty is that the misnamed “funky” and its adjacent styles are a problem precisely because they aren’t remotely interested in bringing the funk. That has always been a dividing line for me. I haven’t gone deeply into soca/grime but “funky” often sounds just like soca to me and has some of the same small island rapture that made that unlistenable.

Now, maybe I’m just missing something, and I’d be curious to hear more about what Gilroy means by “bringing the funk.” There’s clearly a socio-sonic agenda undergirding his comments, and, knowing my sympathies, I’d likely find Gilroy’s take on this persuasive. But not if what he means is that soca drum-patterns are too far from James Brown’s rhythm section to be worthy of the “funk” label. I sure don’t mean to be reductive in my own reading of Gilroy’s position here; perhaps I’ve simply seen in too many other places a kind of insistence that funky isn’t funky. For example —

“Im calling this UK House Because there certainly isnt any funk to it!”
http://thecurbcrawlers.com/blog/2009/05/05/l-vis-1990-uk-house-mix/

“so many Funky records just aren’t funky.”
http://scenexscience.co.uk/?p=1006

I don’t mean to rehash too much of this if it’s already a settled matter (which is another reason I need to publish this post now and move on); for instance, in a long and fascinating thread on dissensus a while back Gabriel Heatwave expressed a similar reaction to Gilroy’s comments as my own —

my problem with gilroy’s thing about ‘funk’ in funky is that it’s such a widely used word, to mean so many different things to different people, that it seems ridiculous to start making claims that something does or doesn’t have it. there are many more interesting things to say about funky than this.

Gilroy’s response on dissensus is worth bringing in, as it offers some interesting elaboration —

didn’t mean to recycle anti-disco heresies but rather to point out that the issues of swing, syncopation and what I call “generic thump thump” electronica do correspond directly to the conceptual and critical problems that arise when the racialised attributes of musical styles are articulated.

What is disco? Are Chic funky, is Sharon Redd, are The System, Ian Levine and the South Shore Commission? These questions aren’t very interesting. But the problems involved in finding, using, claiming and loving the black in this music are, as this thread reveals, still alive.

Some folks love the blackness they hear but aren’t quite so keen on the company of the people whose being invests that quality in the music. This matters as we (hopefully) shift towards a post-exotic relationship with black culture.

Above all, I wanted to highlight the evolving and unstable character of contemporary Britain’s (europe’s) black communities. Ethiopianism is still there but it is residual. Another, postcolonial Africa is emergent. Does unfunky, funky herald its becoming? probably.

I want to take a moment to counterpose these questions of funky’s funkiness with the assertion of its (sonic) Africanness, which is more often than not a quality taken for granted — unlike the more audible aspects Guillaume focuses on — and hardly elaborated upon beyond vague references, as in the following, e.g. —

It was only a matter of time before the hottest dance music in London, with its African influences and syncopated jangling, began drifting into reggae territory.
http://www.thefader.com/2009/10/09/gabriel-heatwaves-uk-funky-bashment-mixtape-mp3/

Perhaps not the most alluring genre-heading in electronic music, Funky House, or UK Funky, or just UKF for those with shorter attention spans, is currently the most invigorated and lively branch of British urban music. The sound of UKF is typified by refurbished House music templates injected with elements of Soca, broken beat, dub and African music, sometimes fashioned into R&B style vocal smashers, but often stripped into dark yet party-fied instrumental anthems. Put another way, UKF is basically a toughened and stripped, yet fluid and sexy House music often made by ex-grime producers, with traces of their former style still apparent in the predilection for African rhythm flavours and sub heavy grooves. (emphasis added)
http://14tracks.com/selections/63-14_tracks_opening_up_uk_funky

Maybe Kevin gets at it a bit more directly with this quip (which is funny counterposed to this) —

Interestingly, qualities like “loose” and “shuffling” bring us back to some commonly remarked features of funk-qua-funk, even if the kind of “looseness” or “shuffle” Kevin is hearing (and I am too) in UK funky and African house alike is not quite the same as deployed in the music of JB or George Clinton.

In general, though, I find myself in alignment with Bok Bok’s sentiments here than with any attempts to hear in UK funky an engagement with contemporary African house & techno (much as I look forward to that) —

Ok I’m getting really sick f this. All of you romantics talking about African influences wake up!!! These ate at LEAST second hand. I’m willin to bet nobody in funky has heard of dj cleo. Us house a the source of all the new non-uk soubding ideas you’re hearing. Now stop this false anthropology, it’s no better than Reynolds ket-fiction

And I appreciate Gabriel’s attempt at some nuance in his own comment on that post, even though he opens a big can of worms with the reference to “traditional african drumming” —

as much as people say that funky sounds like soca, I don’t really believe that this is where the rhythmic ideas actually come from.

like you say, masters at work etc are obviously a big influence and though it’s worth noting that they (maw) have worked with soca artists (e.g. that song ‘Work’), I think it’s more the case that soca, dancehall, (funky) house and reggaeton use rhythms that are rooted in traditional african drumming.

so it’s more a case of them sharing the same influences than funky directly originating from soca. though clearly now things have got going, all these different scenes are crossing over – precisely because they share similar rhythmic foundations and operate at roughly the same tempo.

Speaking of “traditional african drumming,” let me attempt to move toward a close with a brief video clip I ripped from the recent film, The Visitor. It offers an oblique sort of reflection on some of the issues swirling around the question of funky’s funkiness and the implications of hearing/thinking Africa. I actually quite liked the film, so bleak and beautiful, though I was puzzled by a couple (well-meaning?) scenes.

Especially given that some of the drumming-in-the-park moments were so full of funk (in my own somewhat capacious understanding of the term, which does have to do with looseness and syncopation but doesn’t privilege any particular interpretation of them — and hears Pretorian funk and Rio funk as equally “funky” despite each having its own distinctive but decided grid-iness), I was quite struck by the following scene’s insistence on drawing some stark (and erroneous) lines between African music and its Other(s) —

In case it’s not obvious, what’s weird about this scene is that Tarek explains the difference between classical music (“in 4s”) and African music (“in 3s”) in terms of metric organization, and yet WHAT THEY ACTUALLY PLAY is better counted in 4/4 time (and yeah, classical has its fair share of waltzes obviously, making this a weird shorthand). I appreciate the distinction Tarek attempts to draw here, calling attention to the centrality of 3:2 interplay in West African drumming and the relative lack of such polyrhythm in European art music, but this is really clumsy language for illustrating these differences. This sort of (mis)representation of African music (not to mention “classical”) props up a misleading racialist dichotomy (which even opens into how — or whether! — people “think”), if, perhaps, with the best of intentions.

It’s those same good intentions that can perhaps lead us astray in guiding us into hearing UK funky as funky, unfunky, African, or not. I hope I haven’t kicked another hornet’s nest with this post. My interest (investment?) in talking about and thinking through these issues brings me a lot closer to some of Gilroy’s thoughts above than my differences with him w/r/t “funk” might imply.

At any rate, this is all moving so fast that we may as well just keep our ears open for the time being. Just yesterday Boima told me that coupe decale appears to have arrived in London, and this degree of transnational Afrodiasporic/YouTubey interaction is precisely the kind of thing that will toss all these theories on their, as they say in the UK, arses:

Have you seen some of the Anglophone Logobi spinoffs? I saw a youtube of this group K5!, I don’t know their background (I think I remember seeing Ghana), but if they’re Londoners that means we got Coupe Decale-Funky Scene Fusion going on, and that just makes me wet my pants :)

Actually, interestingly, the tags on the YouTube video are:

clifford owusu cliff opoku K5! k5 wanna dance want to coupe decale africa african ghana ghanaian stand alone k5live mapouka ivory coast Yep! ça c’est du vrai renoizR Couper Decaler instrumental

Bringing us full circle in a sense, an anonymous commenter on Boima’s logobi post had this to say:

Say – this Coupe Decale shit is the most boring shit on the planet! Okay, not THE most boring shit…just more homogeneous Euro-dominated artificial zombie robot music for people with no soul or funk about them. Oh well, can’t stop “progress” can we?

Is this commenter just missing out on what today’s “unfunky” Afrodiasporic dance music actually “heralds” (to return to Gilroy)? Or is he or she all too convinced that what is emerging is an alarmingly “Eurocentric” loss of funk and soul? This reminds me that more-or-less the same debate about (Africanized/racialized) funk and its various (Euro/whitened) others has been rearing its head all over the place lately — most memorably in SFJ’s latest gauntlet-toss, in turn tossed right back at him by Victor Vasquez of Das Racist.

But that’s quite enough for now innit. DISCUSS!

Finally, here’s the real full circle, uploaded in May (!!!), back when I should have published this post and well before any of us outside observers caught on to any of this —

34 Comments

  • 1. Marflix  |  November 4th, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    Funk was never a fixed genre. Funk means the rhythm and the bassline, and it is a session which has no certain beginning and end, based on call & response interaction. But the rhythm is the core, thats whythere are so many breaks and bridges.

    Funk has so many colors and facets, but still it’s funk: gospel and early r’n’b, 60s “street funk” jazz and James Brown, Stax/Motown and “nu yorican funk”/latin/boogaloo, in the 70s disco and funk a la Parliament, Sly & Family Stone etc, in the 80s George Clinton, ZAPP etc, later HipHop, House,..
    It is not a certain pattern – compare Africa Bambaata, Zapp and Donald Bird for excample.Every generation and culture takes the vibe and get an own version of it.

  • 2. 100dBs  |  November 4th, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    Marflix pretty much nailed it.

  • 3. rizzla  |  November 4th, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    why is everyone embarrassed of soca? It’s never given credit for influencing anything. Is it because of its seasonal context, or that most people recognize the 150+ BPM styles, rather than the 118-125ish tracks?

    also, so much of the current ukfunky “pop” sound is predated by the “dirty dutch” (post-bubbling techhouse of chuckie + hardwell) and in so many ways, the UK funky-influenced percussion has replaced bmore samples in current bloghouse production (oh snap!, perfect loosers, so shifty etc). at what point do roots become too intertwined as to be untraceable? or even necessary to trace?

  • 4. jace  |  November 4th, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    having an international conversation on ‘funky/funk’ is very difficult , b/c the terms morph constantly in each location and then mean drastically different things as you move from place to place.

    I had always thought of ‘funk/y’ as in the James Brown variety until I moved to Spain, where the term meant contemporary Anglophone R&B and ‘music made by black people played on commercial Spanish radio’ somewhat interchangeably.

    so when i 1st heard about ‘funk carioca’ i pretty much stopped trying to assign the term to any fixed sound at all… which may be a way of saying that what you term as the “loose” and “shuffling” features of ‘funk-qua-funk’ describe the word itself more than any sound quality. sonic looseness transposed into semantic slipperiness?

    and then there’s Das Racist: “The study of genre is largely the study of marketing.”

  • 5. Birdseed  |  November 4th, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    Fantastic post, and fantastic find, Boima, with the ZaZa twins instrumental being repurposed in the UK!

    I think at this point a look at the historical background of funky would be interesting. Funky, the British genre, has obviously got a background in the older, wider funky house genre that is so prevalent in France and which has a huge historiography, canon and discourse of its own. The music I’ve downloaded under labels like “80s funky music” is not necessarily what we’d think of as funk, although it’s very good (And WOULD include Sharon Redd and The System!). Word meanings change, transfer and warp, and in that sense the discussion is being conducted from different premises, rendering it meaningless in some sense.

    And then there’s the fact that the label of a genre doesn’t need to reflect its contents at all. I’ve heard plenty of, say, rhythm & blues which has neither much rhythm or blues. So what if UK funky isn’t “funky”? I’ve got no problem with generalisations like “african-american music is generally syncopated”, but that absolutely does not translate into “african-american music which is more syncopated is necessarily better”! I don’t think anyone who’s not deep into rockist territory can claim that, say, Stax was automatically better than Motown which was necessarily better than smoother Chicago soul, in fact who’s going to dispute the greatness of The Impressions despite the fact that they were not very “funky”? These things fluctuate back and forth, vary across cities and groups, and there’s been masses and masses of “black” music (conspicuously often directed towards women, I might add) that hasn’t been so funky at all. And there are all these different attitudes, different ways of looking – Otis Redding loving Sam Cooke’s ultra-smooth “Live at the Copa”… People re-evaluating lovers rock in a big way recently… Generalisation should NEVER be the same as exclusion, and arguing from typicality is just bizarre.

    Finally, there’s obviously only one person who knows exactly what the funk is, and by that measure UK Funky is definitely funky:

  • 6. timeblind  |  November 4th, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    somebody told me one good reason its called “funky house” is that the name is so gay it will keep outsiders from trying to move in on the scene. didn’t work tho

    the fact that dubstep was called that caused it to siphon in far more reggae and dub references than it originally had. people don’t know what to do so they do the obvious and try to fit in. insecurity.

    anyway, there’s really interesting stuff going on between the lines and I’m finding what I like and ignoring what I don’t. and I’m feeling very anti-music-blogosphere these days anyway so I’m not going to tell you what I like so can we all shut up and dance now ?

    or maybe genres can wax and wane so fast that nobody can keep up and it all implodes. for most people that happened long ago and they refuse to figure out the stupid terms, and I meet these people out in clubs even.

  • 7. wayneandwax  |  November 4th, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    thx for all the quick comments, folks. appreciate hearing from you all.

    timeblind, i can definitely sympathize with you on these questions of naming and how such labels can be somewhat determining/limiting. what’s funny is that i almost finished the post like so:

    DISCUSS! or just dance–

    now i’m wishing i did, but then again, i like ending on that anglophone coupedecale vid, which says pretty much the same thing.

  • 8. timeblind  |  November 4th, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    > I’m feeling very anti-music-blogosphere these days anyway so I’m not going to tell you what I like so can we all shut up and dance now ?

    sorry, that sounded negative. its not the music blogosphere, and its certainly not this fine blog.

    I think its the process of defining things and watching people tack it down. not you guys, but many djs and producers at the moment. right now is fun because there’s so many errors in copying and people having no idea what the rules are for a bit and it makes sets like oneman really good to listen to.

  • 9. Rodney  |  November 4th, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    My take on the genre name, as someone more invested in house than African music, is that the name “UK Funky” is inherited from the longer-standing tradition of Funky House but still useful. In its original incarnation, Funky House implied House music that, while retaining a four-to-the-floor thump, derived its rhythmic drive more from syncopated elements on top of that 4×4 beat than the bass kick itself. Usually this was done via elements drawn directly from African-American Funk traditions, hence the name. While the type of syncopations used in Funky House/UK Funky took a radical shift as the American influences were replaced by African and/or Afro-Carribean rhythms in the London scene, what remained constant was the focus on syncopated elements rather than the 4×4 kick. I think it’s notable that a minority of UK Funky tracks dispense with the four-to-the-floor entirely, but still seem innately connected to House traditions.

    Another aspect that is interesting to me and ties into this somewhat is that one of the major elements of syncopation in UK Funky seems to be cross-rhythmic synth chord patterns derived from older piano-driven House, but these patterns take on an entirely different facet when placed in polyrhythmic interaction with the syncopated snares of UK Funky (Kevin Driscoll’s assertion that “funky house…= SNARES” is entirely apt) rather than the straight 4×4 of trad-House. The Piano House revival is also happening in Nu-Disco, interestingly enough, but in a more straightforward, retroist fashion.

    I think the frequent use of such chord patterns is something that keeps the earlier-mentioned non-4×4 UK Funky tracks grounded in House, even as they abandon the four-to-the-floor kick which is House as much as the snare is UK Funky.

  • 10. boima  |  November 4th, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    Just a few quick points as far as genealogical lines I’m connecting in my own head:

    I’ve observed before that Romanthany’s Funky Afro-beat House track Bring You Up, uses a common U.K. Funky snare pattern. I originally heard this tune on U.K. label Future World Funk’s 2001 Vol. 2 compilation, alongside tracks like Orlando Julius’ IJo Soul, a track that sonically references James Brown’s I Got You (and according to the liner notes predates James Brown’s version.) African Funk indeed.

    I’ve noticed the same snare pattern in Zokela de Centrafrique’s music a less likely connection as far as influence, but if you’re looking for a U.K. Funky snare pattern in African music check the tune Affaire Visa.

    I have fun mixing both tracks together in sets, and transitioning to tracks like African Warrior.

    Bok Bok said that he assumes most UK Funky haven’t heard of DJ Cleo, but the first time I heard DJ Cleo was from DJ Edu’s show on BBC 1xtra in about 2004, the BBC’s mainstream Black Music station.

  • 11. Birdseed  |  November 5th, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Isn’t that snare pattern just a 3+3+3+3+4 though? That sort of rhythmic figure is all over electronic and rhythm-oriented music, if not necessarily in the snares, from 808 state to A Milli, surely?

  • 12. wayneandwax  |  November 5th, 2009 at 11:33 am

    btw, Boima, thanks for reminding me that you too weighed in on this naming bizniz. should have worked that into the post above. will reprint here just, yknow, for the “record”:

    Yes I’m going on and on about U.K. funkiness, but I got it on the brain. I’ve been wondering why the name U.K. Funky. On the surface, the genre seems to have more roots in house, soca, grime, broken beat, or afrobeat, which are all funky in their own ways, but when I think funk, especially while living in Oakland, a completely different idea comes to mind.

  • 13. Boima  |  November 5th, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Sure Birdseed, but the existence of UK Funky elements in a Funk tune, AND an African tune, for me justifies why someone might hear a certain influence or place a certain name whether it was an influence or not.

    These days in popular music, as you’re very aware, the African, or tribal are common empty catch phrase employed without having any background or knowledge about African folk or popular music. Whenever I hear these adjectives I try to think of a style I’ve heard of where similar patterns exist, that would justify such a description. There are 5 styles of music for every of the thousands of languages or ethnicities in Africa, so in this case when I heard Zokela, in my own mind it pacified that urge to justify Africaness.

    Does that work for you? :)

  • 14. boima  |  November 5th, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Uncle Sean just reminded me of my favorite African Funk:

  • 15. The Crooked Clef  |  November 5th, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    It’s all just House music. *sigh*, ignorance is bliss.

  • 16. Marlon Bishop  |  November 5th, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    Personally, I like the definition of “funk” that is basically the earth equivalent of “the force” in starwars.

  • 17. Rodney  |  November 5th, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    These days in popular music, as you’re very aware, the African, or tribal are common empty catch phrase employed without having any background or knowledge about African folk or popular music. Whenever I hear these adjectives I try to think of a style I’ve heard of where similar patterns exist, that would justify such a description. There are 5 styles of music for every of the thousands of languages or ethnicities in Africa, so in this case when I heard Zokela, in my own mind it pacified that urge to justify Africaness.

    Kwaito?

  • 18. Rodney  |  November 5th, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    This South African track is a dead ringer for UK Funky, between the highly syncopated percussion and synth arrangements and sugarsex vocals. It says (c) 2006, but I can’t find any other evidence of it existing before Dec. 2007, but even that would put its release right in the formative moments of the modern London scene : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0C-wP4uFNA

    Notably, it’s in a youtube playlist entitled “funky house”.

  • 19. wayneandwax  |  November 5th, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    Am I hearing the articulation of a semantically slippery, transnational funky house supergenre? Almost akin — actually, just 30 bpm faster — to the rise in prominence of reggae’s 3+3+2 / bomp-bomp stomp in 90-110bpm music (across hip-hop, pop, r&b, reggaeton, cumbia) in the last decade?

    I kind of like that as a pushback theory of sorts, asserting the primacy of translocal connections against London-as-multiculture-supreme (much as that obtains). Such a perspective, perhaps, doesn’t so much underplay what may be a demographic & ontological / ideological shift for black folk inna England, as it underscores the degree to which these actual/local/meatspace networks are also tapped into / participating in global/cyber culture, esp back and forth via “homelands,” other diasporic nodes, and thru more diffuse networks of language, media, and commerce.

  • 20. boima  |  November 5th, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    Wayne, I realize that I didn’t thank you for making my comment part of the official record, and I feel that’s rude, so thank you!

    For one, I can dig that pushback theory. I like the echoes from some of your other writings on Reggaeton and Dancehall, etc. I also like that it includes burgeoning communities in places like NY, or even my crew here in the Bay Area.

    Yes, Kwaito Rodney! And you reminded me that the BBC 1xtra also did a like week long special, most of which I ripped into mp3, on African Music back in Fall ’04, part of which included an extensive look at the South African music scene. I mean we ain’t isolated.

    I thought that this interview with Marcus Nasty (via Matt Shadetek) is relevant on many levels, one of which is his take on the origins of the scene in London. There’s a point in the article where he talks about his experience (although not with much depth) when he DJ’ed in The Gambia (a place where I have been clubbing myself, and they are very into Trans-Atlantic culture influenced by JA and the UK):

    B: Gambia’s interesting because people talk about the African or Afrobeat influence in funky…

    MN: I went there and they’d never heard UK funky before. I went with As It Is TV and like when I played “African Warrior” they went mental. They actually went real mental, they went crazy: it was a lot. I was quite surprised because they were well into the music, straight away: nothing long.

    I heard Grime, Garage, and House as well at Paddy’s Club in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and plenty of shouts out to the UK Massive, JC’s (Just Comes) from the UK, making up a significant percentage of the Freetown clubbing crowd.

    Also those Paul Gilroy statements has my head swimming about Black identity in London, and also tensions between Black Americans, Black Caribbeans, Black Latinos, Black Londoners and Black Europeans in General and Africans. Then I come across a comment on this article, at Africa is a Country:

    Jules // October 31, 2009 at 7:09 pm | Reply

    wow…I was just having a conversation with some of my Caribbean friends last night about the tensions between African people in London and people of Caribbean heritage who prefer to be called Black British. I just find it strange that even when African kids are born in London they don’t typically have a problem being associated with the lands of their parents. Caribbean kids on the other hand have been in the UK longer and don’t necessarily identify with their island roots, and no way do they want to be associated with Africa. I put it down to miseducation. I feel if you’re black and you are suspicious of African people or hate them for being African then surely a part of you hates yourself. I’m a Londoner, but I’m African and these coexisting identities have widened my perspective. I understand the experience of the diaspora is one of conflicting value systems…but surely we all (all people of African descent) need to come together and chill. This article shows the sorry state we are in.

    Yet there are Africans in London engaged in some kind of Pan-Africanism. This video not only references UK Funky Skank dances, but also zooms into my house at the beginning!

    Gilroy really has me thinking about my experience this summer meeting up with cousins (some for the first time) who were all 1st Gen Londoners from Sierra Leone. A great experience that would take too long to resume here, but lots of relevant anechdotes including my cousin wanting to get on one of my tracks when I said I could make a song like Kyla’s “Do You Mind?” Those Crazy Cousins!

  • 21. routes  |  November 6th, 2009 at 4:56 am

    great post.

    in the LDN schools Jamaican kids can’t take the mic out of African kids anymore :]

  • 22. Birdseed  |  November 6th, 2009 at 6:55 am

    Rodney: Funny you bring up that track, I used the exact same one when commenting on Masala! As I understand it though (because I’m more into the “retconned sonic coincidence” theory, at least until I’ve seen firm(er) evidence) “Turn Me On” has been a big hit THIS summer in Funky circles (check e.g. the Radio 1Xtra charts), after getting a European re-release in the winter/spring.

    For me that’s at least as interesting a proposition, the early “africanness” giving way to Africa itself.

  • 23. greena  |  November 6th, 2009 at 8:44 am

    i think its worth noting that within uk funky there already exists a vast sonic palette.
    for example –

    “gone to a better” place by roska has claps on the 2 and 4 and bouncy bassline that could be from all manner of house derived tunes…

    some of geneeus’ beats such as “into the future” or “yellowtail” have very synth heavy lead elements, perhaps reminiscent of techno, to my ears at least. – neither tune has a soca snare pattern.

    with a tune such as “riddim box”by NB funky , surely the primaray influence is grime tunes with massive resonant one note basslines, such as pulse x?

    indeed i’ve heard geeneus sets were he played beats that were all in the vein of electro/tech house – not a singe soca drum pattern in sight. cooly plays a massive amount of percussive tech house.

    personally i feel that the advent of uk funky is more a case of “house” ceasing to be a dirty word within london centric pirate radio type music. I’m sure that if one went from producer to producer and had a chat, a few would possibly cite african music as an influence, but in reality i very much doubt that this figure would be much higher than in “regular” house or even hip hop, jazz or whatever.

    i’m not really sure what point im trying to make… perhaps that the “generic funky pattern” is just that , and requires no knowledge of african music to program.

  • 24. Rodney  |  November 6th, 2009 at 9:45 am

    “Turn Me On” has been a big hit THIS summer in Funky circles

    Yes, this is how I heard it. I think Funky is adaptable in that it seems to be completely open to tracks that originate from outside of its scene but nonetheless fit its sonic hallmarks. Suges’ “We Belong to the Night” (Canada, 2007) and Hardsoul’s “Self Religion (Believe in Me)” (Netherlands, 2007), bangers both, have been adopted as UK Funky anthems. I’m sure there are other examples.

  • 25. Rodney  |  November 6th, 2009 at 9:55 am

    I guess I should add that I very intentionally did not make any claim of influence running in either direction with regard to “Turn Me On”/South African House/Kwaito (hell, I’m so ignorant about that stuff that I’m not even sure whether “Turn Me On” fits into the latter category), just noting the similarities. “[R]etconned sonic coincidence” may be exactly it, but that’s just part of Funky’s all-encompassing spirit!

    Another adopted UK Funky anthem I thought of just now (which should have been obvious to me considering I gave it massive play before I ever heard of such a thing as UK Funky): Enur f/ Natasja, “Calabria 2007” (Denmark).

  • 26. boima  |  November 6th, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    I’ll say it, There’s an influence running in BOTH directions!

    I’m not saying that someone has to be versed in any African style to make UK Funky, or that every UK Funky track has African influences, or that any specific track is the foundation tune for UK Funky’s all encompassing sound, or you have to be African to make this music. What I’m saying is that in London there are children of African parents who grew up going to community parties dancing to African Pop from whatever country they came from, and that helped facilitate a rise in popularity of 4/4 syncopated dance music in Black London’s party scene.

    Keeping with this connectedness theory (and reminded because of Calabria) I think it would be useful to mention the Netherlands where, House is more mainstream and has been acceptable for a longer time with Black youth, but also where there exists an interplay with homeland and diaspora in Bubbling, Kaseko and Carnaval tunes from the Caribbean. Plus I heard nuff UK Funky in Amsterdam when I was at two festivals there this summer.

  • 27. greena  |  November 7th, 2009 at 11:50 am

    ” What I’m saying is that in London there are children of African parents who grew up going to community parties dancing to African Pop from whatever country they came from”

    ….. you’re not talking to a member of the bnp thank you.

    what i was trying to say is that , increasingly so , the lines between a tech house tune, a grime-y house tune (eg lil silva’s beats), a soca – influenced house beat, more u.s sounding stuff etc are all becoming very blurred and i feel thats very healthy. hence i feel that focusing on soca so much when discussing funky is somewhat misguided.

  • 28. Rodney  |  November 8th, 2009 at 9:01 am

    It can be tempting to consider such a focus on Soca to be misguided when UK Funky casts such a wide net of inluences. You kind of get at this, but the really amazing thing about Funky is its malleability. There’s no set formula that makes a UKF track. You can lace together any few of its components (Soca, NYC House, R&B, UK Garage, Grime, Dubstep, Detroit Techno, Dancehall, Broken Beat, Handbag House…that’s just the start of the list), leaving any particular one or several of them out and still come out with something that is unmistakably UK Funky. This makes for remarkably disparate tracks that still become part of a larger whole when looked at as a group. Because of this, rather than it being misguided to focus in on Soca or even a more tangentially related genre, it becomes important to look at what each of these constituent pieces does within the matrix that is UK Funky.

  • 29. synapticat  |  November 9th, 2009 at 9:36 am

    Greena said:
    “i feel that focusing on soca so much when discussing funky is somewhat misguided.”

    Rodney said:
    “… rather than it being misguided to focus in on Soca or even a more tangentially related genre, it becomes important to look at what each of these constituent pieces does within the matrix that is UK Funky”

    However this thread appears to be a general discussion of the matrix that is UK Funky, not a linear exploration of what Soca or other genres do within it.

    Hence, while Rodney’s comment is correct in its own right, Greena’s comment is clearly more relevant here.

  • 30. TRASH MENAGERIE |Introduc&hellip  |  November 9th, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    […] creating Tribal House, and now remerging under the zeitgeist of the UK Funky sounds, although that is debatable. Working on a project with Bersa Discos man Oro11, under the alias “Banana Clipz”, as well as […]

  • 31. Emme1  |  November 14th, 2009 at 2:01 am

    “Funky used early 20c. by white writers in ref. to body odor allegedly peculiar to blacks.”

  • 32. wayneandwax  |  November 16th, 2009 at 10:48 am

    Curious what your citation is there, Emme1. I guess I’d like to know more about the etymological genealogy. I had always heard that “funk” referred to the smell of bodies (and sex in particular), but I had also been “taught” that it was a black vernacular term. I wonder whether the e20c “white writers” you reference were simply picking up on that or whether they “coined” it only to have black folk reclaim it for their funky selves.

  • 33. emme1  |  November 17th, 2009 at 12:20 am

    I found it at etymonline.com of course! Could have originally been a racial epithet that was flipped, the word goes back before e20c, check it out:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=9otbAAAAMAAJ&q=funky+niggers&dq=funky+niggers&lr=

    http://books.google.com/books?id=r8TZAAAAMAAJ&q=%22funky+niggers%22&dq=%22funky+niggers%22&lr=

    http://books.google.com/books?id=V-XMuJPiESsC&pg=RA1-
    PA89&dq=funky+negroes&lr=#v=onepage&q=funky%20negroes&f=false

  • 34. Dr Kevin Cooper  |  January 15th, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    Would the interpretation of Funk never having a fixed genre be true throughout the world for example would it be applicable to the UK ? Is it even plausible to do a Funk vs Hip Hop vs R&B ?

Wayne&Wax

I'm a techno-musicologist, internet annotator, imagined community organizer.

I left my <3 in the digital global, but I reside in Cambridge, MA, where I'm from.

I represent like that.

wayne at wayneandwax dot com

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