Mangueira January 14, 2011 — Best listened to loud.
A few weeks ago, I heard that the police had invaded Mangueira early Saturday morning. My first thought was: the time when the weekly baile funk street party. One friend told me that people had known beforehand so the baile wasn’t happening. Another DJ, however, told me she had heard that the police had shot up some of the street sound systems.
Mangueira is more famous for being Rio de Janeiro’s most traditional samba schools—the only one to have three, yes, three saints. One block from the samba school, a narrow street became an open air baile funk every friday. “Funk Carioca” is Rio’s local electronic dance music. Although its roots are in Miami Bass and freestyle, funk now sounds more like Candomblé drum(machine) rhythms, machine-gun beatboxing, and stutter-rap in Portuguese. Mangueira’s baile was famous throughout Rio for its being four soundsystem deep. And deep bass and the freshest songs drew youth from all over. Teens from other favelas and blue-collar Zona Norte neighborhoods arrived crammed in vans. Taxis deposited upperclass “playboys” from the postcard-esque beach neighborhoods of Zona Sul.
All these bodies converged into one street lined with bars and stands selling beer, Red Bull, and fruity cocktails made with vodka or cachaça. After passing a few young men selling cheap joints and “lança de perfume,” which is supposed to create temporary auditory hallucinations, I entered the real crush of the party.
To move through the multitudes, everyone formed trains with their friends, grasping shoulders or waists and snaking through gaps between bodies, trying not to get separated. Whenever I was the last in the train, I usually felt a hand grab my waist or shoulder, to link our train’s lead. Progress was slow, dancing in place made the crush against others skin feel better.
Four soundsystems lined the street. As we inched up hill, the sound from the next sound system would grow, blending with the last. Dozens of speaker boxes created a wall on one side of the street, the DJ “booth,” a table with CDJs and a laptop faced the speakers on the other side of the street. A rumor had it that DJ’s here accepted tips, such as new DJ gear to debut new songs. Another rumor was that they wouldn’t play music associated with other soundsystems. When I interviewed a DJ from a soundsystem there, he denied the second rumor, “You can hear it. Everyone plays the same shit.” About the first rumor, he said, he didn’t know what other DJ’s did.
Alex MPC, a three year resident, at Mangueira‘s baile (start video at 1:03)
Putaria, songs about (heterosexual) hooking up, dominates funk. More often than lifting their hands into Cs and Vs for the criminal faction, Comando Vermelho, young men and women threw their hands up like a triangle whenever a song like Valesca Popozuda’s “My pussy é o poder” came on. But I hardly saw any kissing. And gender divided most of the crowd. Boys danced with boys, girls with girls. Gay and trans-funkeiros seemed to enjoy more flexibility.
Shortly after the police invasion, newspapers announced that Manguiera would be the next favela to be “pacified.” That is, to be taken over and occupied by police with the idea of ending armed drug trafficking, in preparation for the upcoming World Cup and Olympics. Newspapers and television reports repeated that with Mangueira pacified, the ring of pacified favelas surrounding Maracana soccer stadium would be complete.
In most of communities, pacification has meant the end of bailes funk. Head policeman now in command of communities have prevented or banned bailes. The association for Professionals and Friends of Funk, APAFunk, is fighting a political and legal battle for baile funk to return to pacified communities.
This sonic cartography of Mangueira no longer exists. Sounds always exist in passing, existing in and creating time. existing in and creating space. In this cradle of samba, a narrow street climbed uphill, curving slightly, several thousand sweaty bodies dancing or patrolling the street, absorbed and vibrated to the frequencies of four coexisting walls of music.
For Mangueira’s baile, in memoriam.