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The New Generation of Brazilian Women Revitalizing Funk Music

Funk is a music genre that originated in Rio and is inspired by social consciousness. Women have been overlooked in the genre, but a new generation of women funk artists are changing that.

Street dancer Renatta Prado pictured in purple under warm lights.

Dancer and street performer Renatta Prado writes about the pain and the delight of her profession, Aug. 12, 2022.

Estela Aguiar, Ingrid Fernandes

RIO DE JANEIRO — Women made and continue to make history in Brazilian funk, a hip hop-influenced music style from Rio de Janeiro that blends funk with Miami bass and rap.

“They contribute not only as interpreters, but there are more and more women debating academically [the style], and being composers, producers [who are] inserted in the music ecosystem,” says Tamiris Coutinho, 31, from Rio de Janeiro, author of the book I Fell Face-first into My Pussy: Funk as a Power of Female Empowerment (“Cai de boca no meu b*c3t@o”).

A music and business graduate from PUC (Pontifical Catholic University) in Rio de Janeiro, Coutinho warns that, despite this growth, the situation is not an even playing field, saying, "Women don't get as many opportunities as men do."

Funk is culture, funk is art 

Originating in the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, funk began to explode in the city of São Paulo in the 2000s. The funk dancer and teacher Renata Prado, 32, is part of the first generation of funk women in the Brazilian capital. She says that she danced axé, a strong rhythm of peripheral culture, at the time. But around 2005, she got to know funk and changed dance genres.

Prado created the dance show “Dos Tambores ao Tamborzão”, which traces the history of funk through Afro culture. Her show was successful, and led to work on the scene permanently in 2015. As a professional dancer, choreographer and educator, she says that prejudice is still one of the main challenges for those who make a living with funk music.

“We need to convince people that funk is culture, it's art, it's an art from the periphery, which people tend to marginalize. [...] Black youth, who have historically been marginalized since the time of samba, since the time of hip-hop, live the consequences this time with funk.”

In order to create a positive view of the movement, Renata launched the project “Academy of Funk in 2019”, which brings history, language, dance, and also addresses social issues, public policies and feminist narratives that permeate this musical style.

A strong social message 

With rhymes about everyday life, funk communicates the desires and dilemmas of those who live on the outskirts of big cities. The rebellious language, often improvised, brings up issues that society would like to keep under the rug, such as sex, violence, economics and politics.

Among the many funk subgenres, such as prohibition, brega funk, ostentatious funk and trap funk, Larissa Manoel (MC Lalao from TdS), 25, chose the conscious funk in order to express herself, Today, she doesn't make money with funk alone— she works as a salesperson, a judo and self-defense instructor, a security guard and a construction worker.

Between 2015 and 2016, Lalao experimented with rap. But funk is where she really found her voice. “Many people in the neighborhood have a natural talent for rhyming. But not everyone manages to earn money, make a career out of poetry and funk.”

On the other hand, MC Lalao says that having more women doing funk makes it possible for others to join. “It will generate opportunities for other mines to want to do the same thing,” she says. However, this openness still comes up against a series of prejudices.

Artist ''Don Blanquito" waits outside a club before his performance with his girlfriend and friends, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on March 4, 2012.

Funk Carioca artist ''Don Blanquito,'' brings a message of struggle, love and revolution, March 4, 2012 - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Kelley King / ZUMA

Breaking the cis-gender norm

Willing to break barriers, the Irmãs de Pau — a trans duo comprised of Vita Pereira, 25, and Isma Almeida, 24 — sing about experiences within prohibited funk. “Scrappy and peripheral language has a huge pedagogical power of sincere dialogue in communities,” says Isma.

Vita considers that the genre still has a lot to evolve in terms of accepting different bodies and sexualities. “The oppressions in these spaces are more veiled — they materialize in jokes, points of view and postures,” but she notices more “dissident bodies” producing funk.

The trans presence and the desire of “travequeiros”, cisgender men who like to have a sexual relationship with trans women is something that brings less problems than before. “I see more and more trans women dating, having a family, a job, but affection… no,” says Isma.

In 2021, São Paulo was the Brazilian state that recorded the most deaths of transgender people, according to data from Antra (National Association of Transvestites and Transsexuals). Despite this, the songs address less of this violence and many more trans experiences.

Are these the girls that boys like?

Tamiris Coutinho says that Funk’s main characters are men. “When you enter a funk playlist on Spotify, you will see that several songs that are there are produced and sung by men. There are few women within those playlists.”

Her perception is not wrong and is not restricted to funk. According to the study USC Annenberg on representation of women in the music industry, funded by Spotify itself in March 2021, only 1 in 5 artists in the charts are women.

Spotify said it is committed to creating and supporting a diverse audio industry.

On the other hand, in the main editorial funk playlist created by Spotify itself, Funk Hits, which has more than four million likes, only one of the 40+ songs is sung by female performers.

In contrast, here is a playlist we made for you to explore that has over 100 funk tracks made by women.

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Not Your Grandma's Nonna: How Older Women In Italy Are Reclaiming Their Age

Women in Italy are living longer than ever. But severe economic and social inequality and loneliness mean that they urgently need a new model for community living – one that replaces the "one person, one house, one caregiver" narrative we have grown accustomed to.

Not Your Grandma's Nonna: How Older Women In Italy Are Reclaiming Their Age

Italy is home to many elderly people and few young ones.

Barbara Leda Kenny

ROMENina Ercolani is the oldest person in Italy. She is 112 years old. According to newspaper interviews, she enjoys eating sweets and yogurt. Mrs. Nina is not alone: over the past three years, there has been an exponential growth in the number of centenarians in Italy. With over 20,000 people who've surpassed the age of 100, Italy is in fact the country with the highest number of centenarians in Europe.

Life expectancy at the national level is already high. Experts say it can be even higher for those who cultivate their own gardens, live away from major sources of pollution, and preferably in small towns near the sea. Years of sunsets and tomatoes with a view of the sea – it used to be a romantic fantasy but is now becoming increasingly plausible.

Centenarians occupy the forefront of a transformation taking place in a country where living a long life means being among the oldest of the old. Italy is the second oldest country in the world, and it ranks first in the number of people over eighty. In simple terms, this means that Italy is home to many elderly people and few young ones: those over 65 make up almost one in four, while children (under 14) account for just over one in 10. The elderly population will continue to grow in the coming years, as the baby boomer generation, born between 1961 and 1976, is the country's largest age group.

But there is one important data set to consider when discussing our demographics: in general, women make up a slight majority of the population, but from the age of sixty onwards, the gap progressively widens. Every single Italian over 110 years old is a woman.

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