Sany Pitbull is one the pioneer DJs and producers dominating the Rio scene. 38 years old, he’s been working with baile funk for over 20 years now and today he’s one of the most respected DJs around. I’ve been to he’s bailes really often since he does regularly the Cantagalo baile, which is close to my home. I had this interview session with him in January and here are the results.
The MPC master.
”You know, I’ve gone to bailes since 1983 and soon from the beginning I got very exited of the whole magic of it; making people dance, loud music and all, and I though; I wanna be a DJ. At that time I went to bailes of Cashbox, Marcão and so on, and that’s really where I learned about the music.”
But actually it had started already before that: ”My father liked parties at home and every time we had one he was like: ”Serginho (Sergio is Sany’s real name) go put some nice music on.” So I ended up as the responsible of the records and the music equipment, because he trusted me not to mistreat them. So it’s actually my father who pushed me into this career.”
The first record he ever bought was Gigolo Tony’s Smurf Rock. And as he didn’t have much money then, he bought it together with a friend of his, DJ Pancada. ”It’s was a deal like: You have the B-side and I’ll get the A-side.” Sany tells laughing.
First Sany played at equipes like Cova and Explosão, but now he’s been with Pitbull sound system for 9 years and that where the name Sany Pitbull also comes from.
As DJing more and more pretty much all the Rio DJs who have the means to do it will do some remixes and their own production. Sany is known for his creative use of samples like on the White Stripes beat he did: ”I love music in all it’s forms and I mostly listen music inside my car while driving. But I don’t listen to baile funk, I listen to jazz, rock, trance, opera... whatever. And I always find something new to mix up with funk beats.” he explains. ”In baile funk there’s no prejudism, people who like it are no purists, so why should I limit myself to the samples other people have used already. I also like the vibe and the effects of western electronic music, so I always try to search new ideas from there.”
Sany is also well known for his abilities to use MPC sampler to create live beats on the pads while DJing. ”Seven out ten bailes in Rio have nowadays DJs playing live funk; or it’s electronic drum kit, or MPC, or then computer software or syntetisizer. And while playing MPC, I don’t even use the sequencer, only the sampler and it’s always running out of memory or pads, so I wish someone would make a simple sampler with bigger capacity to use playing baile funk live. But MPC is what really gives authenticity to baile funk; the brazilian DJs pretty much rediscovered it to use it live on stage. Because baile funk is all about percussion, it’s all about drums. But we also use human voice, or guitar as a percussion through this special style of using MPC. But personally I don’t like computer DJs, it’s like machine replacing human art. I like to play with vinyl and MPC because it’s art made live with our own hands. Even though you’re sampling somebody, your not only copying, but creating something new based on it.”
Sany, like most of the DJs who work with their equipes and don’t go touring around with an artist, organize one baile per evening from thursday to sunday, every week. The bailes will take place in various locations, but Cantagalo is Sany’s regular where he plays every week. ”I’ve played here for 12 years already; I love playing here and always insist doing it. Cantagalo has a very special audience. Since we are 300m away from the rich Zona Sul neighbourhoods, it’s a mixed crowd. Of course the majority are local favela dwellers from the community here, but this baile also attracts a lot of middle class audience and foreigners who want to enjoy funk carioca.”
The social role of baile funk.
Inside the communities baile funk creates an independent, peer-to-peer economy. It’s one of the few activities that are done by the local community and geared towards the local community; it’s not something an aid organization or government offers from outside:
”Baile funk has a huge importance for the local favela community: In addition that it’s a way of spending free-time; a secure party, free of charge, close to home; it creates jobs. Not only the DJs, the artists and the people mounting the sound system, but also the people selling drinks and food on the street; all benefit from the bailes.”
Even though violent corridor bailes are over, and police don’t invade and raid bailes that much anymore, the relationship with the officials isn’t still the healthiest one: ”The authorities have still a lot prejudism against baile funk: They say there’s crime in funk, but they don’t see the positive sides of it; baile funk creates happiness and positive role models for the outcast favela kids. And if the MCs are singing about the factions and all that, it’s because those are the problems and day-to-day reality they are living All this shit with drug factions and wars, it’s a police case; they should be able to resolve it, not funk. Baile funk is only about having fun and dancing.”
Sany also sees baile funk as a possibility to solve some of the problems favelas are facing:
”Baile funk is the voice of the community. There is a lot of music inside the favelas, but funk has the most power and influence on people. And I even have an advice for the government: If you wanna make a campaign about Aids prevention, don’t take as a model a novela star, but a baile funk artist. The people identify themselves more with the baile funk artists, then white pop stars.”
Tamborzão ruling the nation.
”20 years ago I didn’t think baile funk would become this big. At the time it was only some parties for the local community. Nowadays the internet is opening big doors for all of us. It’s like you’ve been raised up in a house that’s surrounded by a wall. And one day you’re big enough to raise your head and have a peak on the other side and you see the world out there. The world to conquer and to take your music to. And I’m really happy that I’m given all these opportunities to go abroad and all. And many times out there I’m learning more then teaching and that’s what’s best of it. Because baile funk is only in the beginning now. I might not even be alive anymore when funk reaches the level it should, because it’s an huge process. And I want these kids that are starting now to be able to look back after 20 years and see even more progress then I’m seeing now.”
Baile funk sung in portuguese came out only in 1989, before that in the bailes DJs played 100% international music, mainly miami bass. ”All the djs who have been in the baile funk bisnes for more then 10 years, have played in the era when we still included in the sets a lot of miami bass, like 2 Live Crew, Egyptian Lover, Trinere and Stevie B. So we have the influences from there. So first when we did funk here it was like brazilians imitating americans, but after that we added our own flavor to it.”
However the success of the national brazilian style was immediate and the DJs started using more brazilian music samples and the MCs singing in a language all the audience would understand started coming up. ”What rules the scene now is tamborzão (baile funk with heavy, syncopated brazilian percussion), which is completely carioca. Tamborzão is what makes people really dance here. If you put anything else on the middle of the set, the people come to complain immediately: ”What’s with you? Put on some tamborzão!” Sometimes when I play a miami bass tune the younger kids come to ask when will I begin to play baile funk! It’s these younger kids who don’t know the roots; they’ve grown with tamborzão and it’s the only funk they know. And tamborzão is really the style that is our own, what were now taking abroad and what is enjoying the most success.”
The move from the vinyl to the cd era became around 1997 and the adaptation was fast and complete. Sany laments the situation that in Rio no one produces vinyl anymore; all the stuff goes out on cds and is normally pirated right away. ”Now that I’ve seen the other side of the wall, I do much production geared towards foreign public. But even though I produce quite a lot music to Europe and USA, I also can’t abandon the local funk scene in Rio, so it’s about 50% to the local market and 50% outside. For the stuff I do to foreign labels, I use a lot of brazilian influences and samples, for example from chorinho and bossa nova and for the music I produce for brazilian audience I try to mix up with foreign influences. To have some exchange and to teach about the great brazilian music people don’t know about in Europe and vice versa about the european and american electronic music for brazilian audiences.”
Hitting hard abroad.
Last year Sany went for a tour in Europe that passed through Germany, France, England, Sweden and Denmark. Sany regards the experience very positive and hopes to be able to do more gigs abroad in the future. ”I don’t speak english, so it was quite difficult to break the language barrier, but it was really cool to notice that the public in Europe loves and respects brazilian music and I was really well received there.”
Even though the scale is different in Europe, the audiences get his approval: ”It’s quite different to play there. Here in Brazil you play in a quadra for 3 000 or 4 000 people, once I even played for 11 000 in the quadra of Salgueiro samba school in Tijuca. In Europe the clubs are smaller, but the people are as energetic and enthusiastic as here. The best crowd reactions I got probably in Stockholm, but the parties were really cool also in Berlin and Stuttgart.”
In the nearby future Sany is going for a North American tour in the end of March. The tour passes at least through Miami, New York, Atlanta, San Francisco, Portland, Orlando and even Hawaii in the US and Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto in Canada. So don’t miss his superb MPC live gigs if you’re around.
The success of baile funk in US and in Europe ows much to DJ Diplo, who pushed it to the spotlight of a wider audiences through his ground breaking mixes and DJ-sets. Sany remembers Diplo coming to Rio for the first time to learn about baile funk: ”Diplo came here with M.I.A. in 2005 and he wanted to see baile funk in a favela, so he came here to Cantagalo. In the beginning I didn’t like him that much, because he came and wanted everything instantly. On every second song I played he said through his translator, that he wants that song. So I was like wait a second man, take it easy: In 1500 the portuguese came here, took all the gold and gave pieces of mirror to the indians; it’s not like this anymore. But after that I talked a lot with him and saw that he’s a cool person and a great DJ; and I really consider that he’s the ambassador of baile funk outside of Brazil. And that’s really cool, because he’s not brazilian; he just loves the music and the culture. After that first encounter we’ve done many things together; I’ve organized some bailes for him to play, when he comes to Rio and I’ve participated on the documentary he’s filming about baile funk. And maybe we’ll produce something together for Bonde do Role also.”
Meanwhile Sany’s own productions and beats are about to get a boost on the western markets. During this spring his 12” EP is gonna come out in the Baile Funk Masters series of german Man Recordings. The release is much awaited by many baile funk DJs, including myself. And rumours are that Sany would be returning for another European tour still this year.
Sany's beats on myspace:
Remember to check out also Sany’s videos and mixes from the blog of Carioca Funk Clube podcasts:
An austrian radio journalist Natalie Brunner was doing the interview with me so I you can read german, check out her version on fm4 website: