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HERMANO VIANNA

"(...) Although the Rio funk circuit today is a predominantly suburban phenomenon, the first dances were held in the South Side, in the Canecão on Sundays in the early 70s. The party was organized by disk-jockey Ademir Lemos, who until then had worked in night-clubs, and by radio speaker Big Boy, two figures considered legendary by funk-lovers. Big Boy produced and presented a program every day except Sunday on Radio Mundial, a station that always tried to reach a "young" audience during the most popular radio time niche of the day. The "Heavy Dances", as these Sunday parties at the Canecão were called, drew crowds of about 5 thousand from all over Rio de Janeiro, both South and North Side. The musical programming tended towards the eclectic: Ademir played rock and population, but never concealed his preference for singers like James Brown, Wilson Pickett and Kool and The Gang. Ademir made this comment on the end of the Canecão dances:
"Things were going very well there. The financial results were corresponding to expectations. But then the people who attended began to feel a lack of freedom. The directors began to control everything and lay down restrictions here and there. But we went ahead until the directors of Canecão had the idea of putting on a show with Roberto Carlos. This was their chance to intellectualize the place, and they were not going to miss it, so we were invited by the directors to suspend the dances." (Jornal de Música, no 30, February 1977:5)

Intellectualized or not, the Canecão began to be seen as the noble stage of Brazilian popular music. The Heavy Dances were transferred to clubs in the suburbs, a different district each weekend. Informers who attended these dances say that a faithful legion of dancers went everywhere, from the America Gymnasium to the Cascadura Tennis Club. Big Boy, who had split up with Ademir, but contracted others to take care of the record-players, announced his dances over the Mundial program, which was more and more influential. The Heavy Dances were also held in clubs in other cities, and even got as far as Brasília in 74.

Some of the followers of the Heavy Dances took the initiative of setting up their own sound teams to animate small parties. No-one knows who was the first team. Opinions on this diverge a great deal, each informer claiming he was the first. The teams had names like "Revolução da Mente" (inspired by the James Brown record Revolution of The Mind), Uma Mente numa Boa, Atabaque, Black Power, Soul Grand Prix.

The explanations for the change in the initially eclectic character of the Heavy Dances resulting in the supremacy of soul are not very elaborate. All informers end up saying that soul is a more marked music, and so easier to dance. Disc-jockey Maks Peu, today in the Soul Grand Prix but in the early 70s one of the founders of the Revolução da Mente team, besides also having been an assiduous frequenter of the Heavy Dances, says that "the public that was going to the dances was a dancing public, they knew the steps, so even Big Boy was obliged to play the music that was more marked." Messiê Limá, an old name in charge of record-players in Rio's clubs but who in the 70s "adhered" to the dances by making special presentations in the suburbs, sums up the opinion of most: "Music means rhythm. Music without rhythm does not exist for me. You put on some swing, you dance, it feels good, you get with it."

But "swing" records were very rare pieces. Even information on the latest releases was hard to come by, so much so that the Rio disk-jockeys went on calling that music soul, when funk was the usual word in the United States. Whoever managed to get a good record tore off the label to make it the exclusive property of a particular team. This is a common practice among disk-jockeys of countries that are peripheral to the centers of musical production. A team only exchanged the name of a hit number for information about another name or even for records. Few shops imported soul: Billboard on Barata Ribeiro Street in Copacabana was the main one. Supply was always scant, especially because the number of teams kept growing. Air-hostesses and friends who traveled were asked to bring in the latest hits. It was at this time that there appeared what is now called "transacting records", exchanging or selling between teams and disk-jockeys. Maks Peu tells how he "transacted" his records with Samuel, Mister Sam, now a disk-jockey with the Soul Grand Prix:
"Samuel would say "Hey, Maks Peu, I've brought you the record, here it is." So I took the compact. "Right, this is Jackie Lee, that's what the name says, but what's the music like, Samuel?" I had no record-player at home at that time. Then he would say: "the music is like this, man, just pay attention to the beat so you don't lose the rhythm ... pá-ra-ta-ta-tum." So then I began to dance. "Great music, Samuel! It's going to knock them out!" Then he said: "And now, what's yours like?" So I would go: "Just listen to this introduction: pá-rá-pá-pá..." Then he would say: "I really dig it, man, really dig it, it's transacted, it's transacted." That was how we trusted one another."
Even with all this precariousness, the years from 74 to 76 were days of glory for dances. A team like the Soul Grand Prix, which grew fast, played dances every day, from Monday to Sunday, and they were always crowded. There was a tremendous circulation of teams in the many clubs and a public that accompanied their favorite teams wherever they went, making the exchange of information easier and guaranteeing the success of certain pieces of music, dances and clothes at all the dances. Spreading word about the venue for the next parties at first was done using banners put up in busy streets, and the announcement was given by the disk-jockeys themselves at the end of every dance. Later on appeared the prospects and publicity on Radio Mundial. (...)"
in: "O mistério do samba". Rio de Janeiro: Jorge Zahar, 1995, pp. 19-22.