UPDATE: Diplo’s Favela on Blast documentary on sale now for only $5, or pick up the tshirt combo pack for $25.

Back in 2005 I was sent down to the favelas of Rio de Janeiro to cover what was then the burgeoning scene of baile funk for the late BPM magazine, and I could not believe what my virgin eyes were exposed to. The parties were sunset to dawn-and-beyond bangers, taking place in empty concrete-walled dance schools stacked to the ceilings with massive DIY-built bassbins. The bpms seemed to increase in frequency — and the volume and temperature steadily rise — as the night progressed. What began from the first tracks as world class parties only got hotter and crazier, and I have never before or since experienced anything remotely close. The music at points was literally deafening, the baile funk (or Funk Carioca) mixes morphing into a wobbling single sub-bass wave that just pummeled my ears and chest, bouncing off walls dripping with sweat and moisture. It was raw and unhinged and unbearably hot, as if Anton LaVey were hired to DJ some flame-engulfed Tropic of Cancer Dance Party USA. And then there was the actual dancing. There was a point one night where I saw a 12-year old boy with an AK47 thrown over his shoulder doing the typical porn-fucking-through-clothes dance, and he then bent the girl over and poured a bag of cocaine on her exposed ass and proceeded to do line off of it, all the while being cheered on by his nearby friends. True story. That’s just the type of parties they were…and perhaps still are. I can’t say, I haven’t returned since. The Favela on Blast documentary attempts to tell the story behind these parties and the bass-driven music scene they inculcate. Making this doc could not have been easy considering the inherent danger of the scene and insular nature of those involved. Even with guides and Brazilian friends at your side there was a protocol to everything; at the beginning of every party our friends would bring us to the stage to introduce us to the DJs in front of the crowd (even if we’d already met them), for that ceremony was like getting a Free Pass from reigning Favela Godfathers. Once the crowd saw you were with the DJ, you were essentially safe. Or safer, rather. Even then, with the Miami Bass-derived sounds berating your ears, the darkness shrouding your eyes and the flowing cachaca polluting your liver, you knew you were one wrong move from the Worst Travel Story Ever, even while you were having the Best Time of Your Life. A strange but intoxicating dichotomy.

With a cast of characters made up of the DJs, producers, dancers and musicians behind the scene, Diplo and Brazilian filmmaker Leandro HBL take you through the history of the these parties and their inextricable music, highlighted by appearances from funk superstars like Deize, Tigrona, Mr. Catra and Duda Do Borell. As we noted a couple weeks ago, Diplo’s already working on his No One is Safe documentary series, the first episode focusing on New Orleans Bounce, so it’s obvious he cut his teeth on the music documentary stage by working on this Favela on Blast documentary (not to mention, both genres share a common ancestor in Miami Bass and ghetto bass music in general). An Official Selection of last year’s SXSW Film Festival, Favela on Blast will be available digitally and on DVD on July 20th through Mad Decent. Fans will get an early chance to preview the film when it airs on Pitchfork TV‘s One Week Only starting July 9th. Mark your calenders, it should be an illuminating flick.

Leave a Reply