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What is funk and who sings it the coolest
What is funk and who sings it the coolest

This genre, rooted in the African American tradition, is much more common to you than you think.

What is funk and who sings it the coolest
What is funk and who sings it the coolest

Why should I know about genres of music?

Music is a faithful friend that accompanies a person always and everywhere. But sometimes our favorite songs start to get boring, and it is difficult for us to find a replacement for them.

Knowledge of the genre makes this task easier: it will be easier to identify your preferences and refine your search parameters. But this knowledge expands the horizons - it allows you to find favorite tracks from representatives of another musical trend. This means enriching the playlist.

For example, you love the melodic pop music of the Beatles. If you are also familiar with the features of different genres and are open to new things, then appreciate the composition I Don’t Know by the hip-hop team Beastie Boys. This song is nothing more than a tribute to the genre traditions of the Beatles.

Good. Then what is funky?

Funk is boldness, pressure and rhythm, infecting with the desire to move. But seriously, this is a genre of popular music that has its origins in the African American musical tradition.

At first, jazz musicians used the word “funk” to describe their energetic playing style. She became the antipode of the "flattened" performance of commercial jazz.

How do I know if I'm listening to funk?

Funk can be easily distinguished from any other trend by the following features:

  • "Gurgling" bass guitar. She sets the rhythm of the whole composition.
  • Energetic and abrupt winds.
  • Uneven vocals. He is sometimes impudent and hysterical, then “calming down” and turning into recitative.
  • Instruments generally do not overlap.

But the main thing in funk is the special rhythmic pattern of the compositions, powerful, confused and heterogeneous. This is the so-called groove - a rhythm that inevitably makes the listener want to move to the music. It is thanks to him that I really want to dance to the funk. Well, or at least stamp your foot.

Where did the funk come from?

Funk as a genre originated in the United States in the late 60s. Then racial inequality was eliminated at the legislative level, but “household” segregation still existed, and the battle of African Americans for equality continued. The black population of the states sought to develop their culture, fought for the right to be themselves.

Against this background, the music took place its own processes: as a response to rock and roll, popular with the white population, soul appeared. It later became the basis for many other styles.

Soul quickly gained popularity, but in the minds of the masses it remained the music for African Americans. The desire to make it more lucrative and attract a white audience led to the "flattening" of the songs.

Then, in contrast to this commercialization, funk came out of soul - very similar to its predecessor, but sharp and impetuous.

Funk was also more politicized: the musicians did not miss the opportunity to pay attention to the remnants of racism. They talked about the fact that being black is not only not ashamed, but also great.

Who made funk popular?

Among the first and most significant are these performers.

James brown

James Brown is the father of the genre who began his career as a soul artist. Later, Brown "weighted" soul, began to include more African motives in his work, and thus significantly influenced the formation of funk music.

Brown is credited with the first compositions of the genre: Funky Drummer, Papa's Got a Brand New Bag, Cold Sweat.

In 1968, the musician released one of the most significant songs for funk - Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud (“Say it out loud: I’m black and proud of it!”).

The composition clearly shows the social component of the genre. The lyrics don't just talk about equality - it boldly encourages people to be proud of their identity. Through such texts, Brown became the thought leader of the African American community.

Musicologists and critics boldly argue that Brown defined the sound of funk and essentially created the genre.

George Clinton

The founder of the Parliament and Funkadelic groups, George Clinton, formulated the slogan for this direction: One Nation Under a Groove! ("One nation united by rhythm!"). Clinton is also known as the founder of the funk mythology. It stands on the idea that people who are connected to funk are a higher civilization, whose representatives came to earth from space.

The musician introduced the motives of rock, psychedelics to funk and paved the way for the popularization of this genre.

Sly Stone

Sly Stone is the third "creator" of funk and the leader of Sly & the Family Stone. The team included both white and black members, which was very rare. Such a composition perfectly personified the social underpinnings of funk - the desire to be on an equal footing, regardless of skin color.

Stone diluted the funky with psychedelics and, like his colleague George Clinton, allowed the genre to be more inclusive.

Hard. Where is the pure funk then? Just James Brown?

In fact, music is a rather chaotic phenomenon, and it is very difficult to classify it clearly. One track can combine elements of many genres.

Don't bother. You already know the hallmarks of funk (see card 3), so just listen to the music and look for those traits in completely different tracks.

What happened to the funk then?

In the second half of the 70s, the situation with racial inequality in the United States improved, and the African American community got tired of fighting for their rights. At this time, on the basis of soul and funk, the disco genre appeared. It broke the racial boundaries, becoming a genre "for all", which fulfilled the main mission of funk.

Disco bands of that time actively combined features of funk, soul, rhythm and blues and disco in their work. Here are some of the most prominent representatives of this musical era.

Earth, Wind & Fire

The American group, which owns the hits of September and Boogie Wonderland, combined funk, soul, jazz, rock and other styles. The collective stood outside politics (unlike many contemporary groups) and composed entertaining music, which was distinguished by virtuoso arrangements.

In the song September, the bass guitar creates a strong dance rhythm, the winds are mostly abrupt, and the vocals often resemble melodic cries rather than heartfelt singing.


A team from the United States, which appeared in the late 70s. Chic became the inventors of stunning samples, from which the most popular songs were later written.

For example, a purely funky riff from Good Times became the basis for the track Another One Bites the Dust of the cult band Queen.

Kool & the Gang

The collective has existed since 1964, and during this time the composition of the group has changed many times. The musicians experimented a lot with different genres and managed to become famous as hitmakers. The group has won numerous awards, among which there are two Grammy figurines. Kool & the Gang's music is actively used in films and TV series to this day.

The song Jungle Boogie also has an interesting guitar riff, harsh brass and peculiar exclamations of the vocalists, which is inherited from funk.

So it all ended in disco?

No. Funk features have been adopted by other styles of music as well.

Pop music

Dance rhythm is almost the main weapon of pop music. Since funk rhythms are contagious and luscious, they often form the basis of pop songs. For example, they play brightly and flawlessly in the work of Michael Jackson. Songs from his breakthrough album Thriller are especially indicative in this regard.

In Pretty Young Thing, you should pay attention at least to Jackson's vocals, which sometimes gain strength and become a set of exclamations, then sound tender and soft. And the moans and screams, which are now and then organically woven into the canvas of the composition, are very reminiscent of the manner of Jackson's main idol, James Brown.

Particularly interesting in the song is the lead sample played on a bass synthesizer. It's basically a funky bass part that has been passed on to another instrument.


Funk gave birth to funk rock and metal funk. These subgenres inherited the groove parts of bass guitars from their ancestor. Bright representatives of the "crossing" of funk and rock - Red Hot Chili Peppers. The band's bass riffs are a tribute to their funky predecessors.

On the track Dani California, you can hear the funky guitar busting very clearly.


This is how jazz-funk appeared - a subgenre characterized by groove rhythm and the use of synthesizers. It was widespread in the 70s and 80s of the last century in the United States.

Famed jazz trumpet player Miles Davis dedicated his album On The Corner to experimenting with jazz funk.

Funk later became the basis for the emergence of hip-hop. Musicologists argue that this genre would not have appeared without James Brown.

Are there modern funk artists?

Since the appearance of disco funk in its purest form, it has become a rarity, and it is performed by far from the most popular bands for a narrow audience.

However, there was a moment when the genre was resurrected for the masses. This happened in the 90s thanks to the work of the Jamiroquai group, which exploded the charts in the USA and Europe. Traveling Without Moving was listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the best-selling funk album in history.

In the composition Virtual Insanity, the influence of funk is especially clearly heard.

However, in the process of creating tracks, Jamiroquai did not rely on pure funk: there is a lot of soul, jazz and house music in the band's work.

In the 2000s, Jamiroquai began experimenting with sound. Funk, which until then was one of the leading directions in the work of the group, began to give way to electronics and techno.

How has funk influenced other contemporary musicians?

Funk mixed with other genres and made its way into the work of completely different artists. And he gave them his best part - a high-spirited dance groove, which is created to the sounds of a bass guitar. As a rule, it is accompanied by an alternation of sharp and melodic vocals.

These features can be found in such well-known tracks.