A decade before funk carioca started to crawl, soul invaded clubs in the city’s suburbs. It was the time of the sound teams, the blacks and the “cocoas” (or chicks). “There was the black dance and the dance of the crowd of girls that enjoyed rock, known as the “cocotas”. The cocotas went to the suburban rock dance parties, waxed their hair, carried a surfer’s look, and wore trousers with their bottoms showing. Their business was just to look for fun.
Black Dance Halls
The black balls were more serious events, more geared to social, everyone was well dressed, well produced. It was a kind of ritual, with rehearsed choreographies, etc. DJ Marlboro recalls: “We went to the dance parties to listen to music that we couldn’t hear anywhere else. Some of these songs, when played, would get the audience howling. There was no internet, it was very difficult to get imported records. Some songs were precious. I saw a guy trading a VW beetle for an imported compact record – I’m not kidding ”, he concludes.
The Black Rio Movement
The explosion of soul carioca in the 70s became known as the Black Rio Movement and brought together names such as Tim Maia, Toni Tornado, Gerson King Combo, Cassiano, Carlos Dafé, Banda Black Rio and many others. The musicians were not the only protagonists of the scene; even more important to the public were the sound teams, such as Soul Grand Prix, Black Power and the newly created Hurricane 2000. There were more than 400 teams which promoted balls attended by countless young people.
The Canecão Music Hall
The Bailes da Pesada (Heavy Dances) promoted by radio announcer Big Boy next to DJ Ademir Lemos, on Sundays in major show hall Canecão, are considered the starting point of black parties in Rio. Despite being held in the South Zone, these balls attracted young people from all over the city to dance to the sound of James Brown, Earth, Wind & Fire, Tower of Power and other names in black music, who shared the DJ playlist with rock and pop hits. The Canecão Sunday events, however, would not last long. The owners of the house decided to interrupt them to perform a season of concerts by Roberto Carlos, a major pop star in Brazil.
Big Boy, with his partner Ademir, started to promote his party in several clubs in the Rio de Janeiro suburbs, always leading a legion of faithful followers. This itinerant logistics was adopted by other teams that appeared in the period. “In general, I didn’t have to attend a specific dance. We kept an eye on the schedule. We would go wherever our favorite teams went. ”, recalls Sir Dema, organizer / DJ of the Soul Baby Soul and Clube do Soul parties and one of the main names of the recent resurgence of black music in the cities of Southeastern Brazil.
In the 70s, soul was big news here and most of the records were still imported and difficult to get a hold of. As Hermano Vianna states in his classic study “The Baile Funk Carioca: Metropolitan Parties and Lifestyles”, many of the hits of what was called soul by DJs in Rio actually belonged to a new style that emerged in the USA in the 1970s: funk, whose main creator was James Brown. Seeing the potential of style, the media began to cover some artists. TV Globo, Brazil’s largest chain, considered launching a TV show with Tim Maia, Toni Tornado and Gerson King Combo as hosts. The record companies started to invest heavily, launching several artists who were riding the wave of the movement, specially the Banda Black Rio, formed by experienced musicians. The band played with Caetano Veloso at the Bicho show and released three official albums, among which the historic Maria Fumaça, up to today considered one of the best Brazilian instrumental music albums.
Black Power Leaders
The figure that perhaps best embodied Brazilian black power was the legendary Dom Filó, creator of Soul Grandprix, a team that identified itself most strongly with the black power movement, although the references – bell-bottom pants, colorful clothes, disheveled hair, etc. – were more aesthetic than political. “Dom Filó was a very politicized and charismatic guy. At that time, 80% of blacks did not have a political opinion. When they saw those guys dancing together, with those clothes and hair, the military realized that if a leader appeared among that crowd, it would give the government a lot of headaches. That’s when they started chasing the blacks, ”explains Malboro. Many artists and team owners ended up at DOPS (dictatorship police) and Black Rio was the labeled as subversive. “The chase took away the strength of the movement. The best musical moment for humanity is black music from the late 60s to the early 80s, ”says DJ Marlboro. “It’s just like football from Pelé and Garrincha’s time. Unfortunately, due to the dictatorship, there ocurred an interruption in the development of Brazilian black music. But we still have Tim Maia and so many other incredible talents ”.
Where Rock Meets Soul
Rock dance halls continued to happen during all this time. The cocotas were no threat to national security as were the soul guys. As the hit from the Gerson King Combo said, if you were black, you had to follow the black rules. In addition to music and records, the whole idea of black pride and racial conscience was arriving in Brazil through the American icons of soul. In the suburbs of large cities, young people instantaneously bought the idea. As political scientist Renato Ortiz points out, unlike samba, which had become a symbol of mestizo Brazil, many saw soul as a style of music made by blacks for blacks. Born in the south of the USA, the genre seemed to reflect the daily life and feelings of many young Brazilians. “When we were 15, they tried to impose samba on us. But soul freed us from being forced to follow that path. I realized that being a young man with low income did not force me to be a samba dancer at carnival. Soul was a release from that tradition”, says Dema.
The Police Violence Against Blacks
In 1976, at least 30 thousand people went to the club Portelão for a Gerson King Combo show. That would be a special night, a celebration of the strength of the movement that had conquered the suburbs and the South Zone of Rio, but the police arrived with all the truculence, expelling the public, and the Combo concert had to be canceled.
The Disco Era and the Blacks
At the end of the 70s, a new rhythm, even more danceable, landed powerfully in the city: it was the beginning of the Disco era. The rock dances quickly joined the Saturday night package and started playing hits by Bee Gees, Brazilian Frenetics and others. Soul dances still held out for a while, but blacks also ended up riding on the disco wave – in the United States, several big names in black music had long flirted with the new rhythm in their songs. In 1978, Tim Maia himself tried out the new take on Tim Maia Disco Club.
When Disco Blacked
Who could imagine that the disco wave and the repression of soul would end up bringing together cocotas and blacks, mixing everything in the genesis of the scene that would give rise to funk carioca, in the late 70s? At least this is DJ Malboro’s interpretation of the genre’s history of which he became the greatest representative: “If before there were 300 soul balls and 200 cocktails, at that time they became 500 funk balls! This happened when the disco blacked, or when black went Disco “, concludes the DJ.
Translation by Luise W Mello Franco