"Original baile funk, or funk Carioca, is what you hear on every corner in Rio and everybody lives for it."
Zuzuka Poderosa’s bio is a lot like the story of global bass music itself. The Brazil-born, Brooklyn-based bass vocalist is inspired by baile funk but her music has taken on the flavors of everywhere she has been and everything she has heard. Now she spreads her ass-shaking hybrid inspirations around the world collaborating with producers like New York’s DJ Rekha and DJ Sujinho and (soon, we hear) Serbian folkstep duo Shazalakazoo.
We’ve been waiting for awhile for a new statement from her and now we’ve got it in the new Carioca Bass EP, out now on Little Owl Recordings. Produced with Kush Arora, it’s a molten ball of socially conscious funk composed of the tracks “Seda” and “Psicodelia” with remixes from Nego Mozambique, Jubilee & Burt Fox, Chrissy Murderbot, Sonora, HxdBc and CEE. But what is this Carioca bass?
In a recent interview at her colorful, record stocked Brooklyn apartment, its creator was happy to tell us. We talked to her about the EP, baile funk culture, the complex mixture of musical influences that make up her sound, and how, growing up in Brazil and on Grand Cayman Island, she fell in love with all things bass.
What is Carioca bass?
Carioca bass is what I do and what I identify with. Basically, I made it up myself because it does have baile funk influences but I also had other influences growing up, such as dancehall, drum and bass, bass music and electronic music as well. So, I didn’t really think of what I do as original baile funk. Original baile funk, or funk Carioca, is what you hear on every corner in Rio and everybody lives for it.
I identify myself with all of the producers I work with who have more of a deep club kind of sound and also has that baile funk influence. So, why not call it Carioca bass?
Lately, in global bass music it seems like there are more and more styles like moombahton that are complete hybrids. Do you find that interesting?
There will always be hybrids. It’s inevitable. There’s so many things coming out of every genre of music since day one. It might be an evolution of something. Maybe you will like it or not. But music will always evolve, and you can call it what you really want to call it. Or not. Maybe you can leave people wondering “what is she doing?” It’s up to the artist creating what they’re creating.
Do genre distinctions matter to you?
It’s not about the genre distinctions. When you create something, you have to let people know exactly what they are listening to. You don’t want people to call it something different and you want to let people know “this is what I’m doing,” whether it’s moombahton, whether it’s trap music, whether it’s Carioca bass.
Baile funk is enjoying some popularity outside of Brazil and is incredibly popular in Brazil but there is also a stigma attached to it. The government has made attempts to repress it, especially the songs that deal with the drug trade.
What is it about baile funk culture that inspires you to do what you do?
When I was eleven or twelve years old, Furacão 2000, who was one of the originators or baile funk in Brazil who would bring a crew to many, many parts, different areas of Brazil and play.
I would love to hear that. It was the dance that moved me more than anything. We would gather with other kids and choreograph ourselves and then we’d compete with each other. There’d be one crew here, one crew there, and we’ll go see Furacão 2000 and we’d just dance. We were called passinhos. And if you want to know more about passinhos, it’s like a big movement now in Brazil. There’s even a documentary about it. These kids, they’re in dance crews who are very influenced by the beat. And that’s what moved me in the first place. But after that, I moved. I went to the Caribbean.
Now, you asked me about the government and how they want to ban it. They wanted to ban it for a long time. But you can’t ban it. Everybody wants to express themselves and the people that live in the favelas, they don’t have any resources or an education. Basically, they’re saying: “You are poor. You don’t know what you are talking about. You don’t want to talk about beautiful things. You have to shut up. What is your right to express yourself?”
Before, it was banned because it was considered the music of the poor and the music of the Black. But now, you go to Brazil, you go to Rio, everywhere you go you hear baile funk, whether it’s in the south, Zona Sul. All these rich kids are listening to it. And it’s inevitable. People want to ban it, yes, but it’s inevitable. There’s always going to be people making it. It’s what they need to make. It’s all they want to make. This is art at the end of the day. Just because they want to talk about guns or they want to talk about sex or they want to talk about rape, it’s still an expression. It’s an art form. And it doesn’t really matter what your status is in Brazil, in Rio, it’s a lifestyle. Baile funk is a lifestyle.
You play in Brooklyn a lot to audiences that don’t necessarily speak Portuguese. Who are your New York fans and what draws them to your music?
People who come to the show are people who want to dance. The show is very energetic. It’s very booty. It’s very sweaty. You just want to grind. You want to get down. It’s fun. And who doesn’t want to go to a party that’s fun? You don’t want to stand around. You can’t stand around when I sing because I’m going to get you to get down, man! And that’s what people want to do when they go out. They want to have fun and dance.
What is “Psicodelia” about?
It’s about what you were kind of asking me before about living in the favelas. There has been a lot of distress in the favelas because they have been pacified by the police. Now, people have curfews they can’t really throw baile funk parties anymore. You have to have an approval. You can’t talk about certain things while you are throwing these parties. It is less violent, but at the same time I feel like people really lost their freedom to express what they need to express.
What I’m saying on the hook is that when you look up at the sky and you think it’s beautiful fireworks, it really all this violence with guns and explosions. Psicodelia means psychedelic. It’s the psychedelic skies full of bombs and explosions. Basically, whether it is in the ghetto or the favela or it is in the Middle East. those people that live there don’t deserve all that suffering. The innocents are the ones who end up paying for it. All they want is peace and then people come in and there’s no peace. And I’m, like, “who is going to save us from all this?”
What about “Seda”?
Seda means rolling papers. There’s a lot of double meaning with sexy references but at the same time what I’m stating that it’s time to legalize marijuana. There’s all these people, kids and rock stars, dying from prescription medication. I wish I could just go somewhere when I have a pain because I need to smoke marijuana. I don’t even smoke marijuana every day. I smoke when I need it. I smoke when I work. I get really focused. I smoke when I have pain. It’s really medicinal. I think it’s time to do it. It’s happening in a lot of places already.
You have lived in other places besides Brazil. What sort of musical influences did you pick up in other places you have lived?
In my teenage years I lived in the West Indies so I was very influenced by ’90s dancehall. When I lived there dancehall was almost everything for me. My mom used to listen to soca and I used to listen to dancehall. I used to go to illegal, outlaw dancehall parties. And Buju Banton, Patra, I was influenced by all of them. But because it is a British colony I had friends who would go to England, to London to visit and they came back with new music, like jungle music, breaks with dancehall vocals.
Then I cam to New York and I was listening to this radio station that was playing this jungle music and I called the station and I said I just got to New York, where can I go to listen to this music and they told me. They told me where to and I started going over there and all of a sudden I had two turntables and I started shopping for records. I was such a fiend. My first 2,000 dollar credit card limit, I spent it all on records.
In the early 2000s I started collecting a lot of vinyl because I started this night in New York with all Brazilian rare grooves. My partner owned a record store, in fact he still owns a record store, Tropicália in Furs.
And I was a big raver. I came to New York and I became a total raver. And that’s why I’m influenced by techno and house music. There’s too many influences and I don’t want to let go of any of these influences. I think it’s what grounds me in what I do and what I want to put into the music that I do.