Teenage casanovas, booming car speakers, and freaky dance moves make these street parties a weekly destination for the city’s music fans.
Funk carioca—a Brazilian version of hard-core street rap—was born in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. It soon spread to the low-income outskirts of São Paulo where it morphed into offshoot styles, with rhymes glorifying drugs, money, and sex. Fans of the genre were behind 2014 flash mob mall invasions that had shoppers at high-end Brazilian stores on edge, and the music is now driving a new trend that has hundreds of thousands of revelers gathering in the streets each weekend for parties called fluxos—Portuguese for “flow.”
Renato Barreiros is a director and producer of cultural events on the periphery of São Paulo. He was formerly deputy mayor of Cidade Tiradentes in the São Paulo metropolitan area. He’s been working with funk for years (previous work includes a feature on funk da ostentação) and recently put together a short film São Paulo’s street parties. No Fluxo! provides a window into a crazy party underground where music blasts from car trunks, 13-year-olds singing about sex are the stars of the scene, and the coolest dancers combine ridiculously silly gestures into flowing choreography.
Are fluxos a new phenomenon? How widespread are they?
It’s a funk party in the middle of the street. Friends arrange to meet through social media, and invite somebody who has a car with a good sound system, and people start to find out and join. It’s cars with big speakers, not much structure. That’s a fluxo.
Fluxo is a place where a lot of people travel through. They take place in the streets or plazas of neighborhoods. Neighbors definitely hate them. … It’s a movement of the São Paulo periphery. There aren’t many favelas in this city, but people without much money live in the periphery in large government housing buildings.
The fluxos existed before, but they have become far more popular due to the new economic reality. They’ve begun to multiply because people don’t have any more money to go to clubs like in the ostentation funk period.
What is going on with this new funk street-party phenomenon?
Brazil is in the midst of an economic crisis. That is to say, people are not starving, but average low-income people are realizing that that they won’t be able to buy a Camaro. And in the face of this new reality, people have stopped going to clubs where you have to pay an entrance fee and drinks are more expensive. Instead they’re putting together street parties—fluxos.
I have worked extensively with ostentation funk, which was born in a moment of economic growth in Brazil. Economic growth and low unemployment allowed previously poor people to begin buying “luxury” products like whiskey or expensive clothing brands. Not that they could consistently access these goods, but for the first time they were within reach. And that filtered through to the music, where ostentation funk arose. … This new economic reality is the end of ostentation funk and the beginning of a new funk. Funk music is going back to its origins—and talking about sex.
Sex is free, after all. This type of party has been frowned upon by authorities, right?
Police shut them down because they really bother neighbors and because they’re not authorized. … The municipality has started a project to host legal fluxos, but it’s still very small. … The municipality puts together street parties for a lot of people and with funk MCs, but with an end-time of, say 8 p.m., and with a whole structure in place to make sure minors don’t drink alcohol and that nobody consumes drugs. They put a stage, light, sound, and bathrooms and bring famous artists.
The thing is, the municipality puts together one party a month and about 5 thousand people go. But there are about 400 to 600 fluxos every weekend in São Paulo with a minimum attendance of 800,000 people spread in events around the city.
I see from your film that new tendencies in funk include fairly young MCs and a pretty strange dance step called the Passinho de Romano. Can you explain a bit more?
It’s called “skanky funk” it talks about sex, and “forbidden funk” which talks about drugs. It’s become fashionable for 13-year-olds to sing lyrics talking about sex, but the Public Ministry has already forbidden some from doing shows.
Here’s one of the most famous, MC Brinquedo.
Such young kids singing songs with sexual content is new—and definitely a characteristic of this new era of funk—but it seems like it’s already ending because prosecutors are suing the music industry and parents.
The Passinho do Romano was a dance move that started becoming popular in fluxos with a guy named Magrão, who was later killed in a motorcycle accident. Videos of the guy dancing started trending and kids started dancing that way. It’s a weird way of dancing that looks like the zombies of The Walking Dead.
Here’s the most famous Passinho do Romano [video].