Life is a chorus

Ficticious biography for the Cabelo introduces MC Fininho and DJ Barbante at Baile Funk (Gentil) Carioca exhibition

Fred Coelho

Exhibition catalog | 2011

Respected public, it is not every day that we hear the story of some of the characters of the Rio underground scene. In this exhibition, Cabelo and Gentil Carioca present a little bit about the life and work of the unforgettable antihero MC Fininho. Fininho, a good boy, had a “corpo fechado”, sported a gold chain, had nothing in his pockets or hands and wore colourful trainers. He is also known as one of the main articulators of the musical basses and of the places (quadras!) where the Baile was born and rules until today. Way back in 1983 it was MC Fininho who, after a kamikaze trip to the U.S. to embark on the spacecraft announced by George Clinton, brought back the LP “Planet Rock” under his arm. It was Fininho the boy-wonder, who led the dance in the first Bailes in Villa Lage, the cradle of his comrades from Pipo’s, and the next day, ate canjica in the jongo of Morro da Serrinha. Connoisseur of all the nooks and crannys and community radio stations, Fininho drifted between homes, families and soundsystems like a nomad of funk, spreading the word, learning the esperanto of the streets and transforming his history and the history of world music. Fininho was also present on pirate radio stations during the eighties singing a thousand times the first versions of Brazilian funk recorded with DJ Barbante, as requested by the listeners. He was also the creator of classic expressions like “tô bolado” (“I’m annoyed”) and “não tem caô” (“no hassle”) and administered the first teachings on Miami bass from the squares of the Complexo do Alemão to Praça Seca.

They say that Fininho hasn´t appeared in photos or interviews since the so-called “arrastões”, of 1992. At this time, his image was marked in the headlines as the leader of the “bonde” that came bouncing on the “474” bus, agitated, heaving, with everybody singing the “Melô da mulher feia” (“Melody of the ugly woman”). After this incident that forever branded the funkeiros cariocas, Fininho disappeared from the map and his story has become obscure. Some say it was exactly at this time that Fininho met Cabelo, a young university student and cultural activist who lived in Copacabana, that surfed on the beach with the boys from Pavão. Cabelo met Fininho at a late afternoon kickabout in the summer and the connection was instant. They sang sambas by Almir Guineto and discussed esoteric topics, laughing and talking very loudly. It was Fininho who suggested to Cabelo the theme of his first verses and the idea that making music and visual arts was a possible dream to live off. Fininho showed Cabelo that the precarious is potent, that little can be much, that the masses are the ones that heat the streets and that when the “bonde” begins, nothing can stop it.

In 1999, however, Fininho was silenced and exiled from the Bailes and the Detroit-Taquara-Luanda MPC trafficking route was interrupted. With the opening of the Funk CPI (Parliamentary Inquiry Comission into funk) in the Legislative Assembly of Rio de Janeiro, Fininho was called to give testimony as one of the main deponents. His speech was awaited by all authorities and broadcasters as urban legends attributed to him the key to the secret history of Funk, from the founding of the Soul Grand Prix to the design of the Bagulhão ZZ discs, from giving tips to the sampler of “Jack Matador” to the suggestion of “Marlboro” as a name to a DJ from Lins Vasconcellos. His appearance was marked by bullying from the press, women with children in laps claiming paternity tests and dancers of the Renaissance Club paying solidarity to the old friend and teacher. His testimony was enigmatic, all in the language of Congo, TTK and slang from the Chaparral Baile. He said that his father used the parangolé ‘INCORPORO A REVOLTA’ (Incorporate the Revolt) at the MAM in 1965 and that he knew by heart the eulogies of rich women about his fathers avant-garde performance that ruptured the aesthetic standards defended by the book of Ferreira Gullar. “There,” said Fininho, “I decided that my mission was to make everybody dance.” When asked if he was not afraid to have such a heavy and dark biography, Fininho answered with his most memorable quote, the one that still now marks generations of intellectuals and street urchins, “My friend, don’t concentrate on the lyrics because life is a chorus!”. After his bombastic refusal to denounce the “police” who allowed the Baile in the Bandeirantes Club in Taquara and the “husslers” who payed for the transport of the funk crew, the Funk CPI was closed due to a lack of evidence and the clamor of a public asking for the Bailes to be allowed to occur. Fininho left the Legislative Assembly and disappeared, entering into a van that was going to Cocotá, Cacuia and Bananal.

At that time, Cabelo was already a well-known artist and shared his studio with Fininho, who had his low technology studio powered by the magnetic fault of ‘Santa Clara Poltergeist’ and by the thumping bass of Pavão´s Baile on the walls of the buildings in Copacabana, Sáfeganistão’s hood. The aesthetic exchanges between the two meant that Cabelo started to compose raps and Fininho rescued, through objects and drawings, his childhood roots in the bars of the Morro do Esqueleto, listening to the legend of the death of Le Coq and the hundred bullet holes in Cara de Cavalo. Fininho started to study art theory and proposed a philosophical revolution in Funk music. He began writing his lyrics after immersion in news weeklies, conversations between bus conducters and reading long stretches of Catatau, the tropical Cartesianism book from Leminski.

The fact is, paradoxically, that the twenty-first century and all the ‘verbovocovisual’ impact that the Internet and digital culture brought us was too strong for Fininho. Prophet of the sampler and montages, spokesman of the poststructuralist pancadão, our hero did not adapt to the stardom that anthropologists, musicologists and philosophers attributed to him. One sunny day, Fininho said he was going to wash his car on the street and disappeared into the paths and alleys of IAPI Olaria, the last place where witnesses saw him. Some say that the symbiosis between Fininho and Cabelo, his partner, was so strong that in some way one became the other and vice versa, and that it could no longer could be distinguished where the ideas of the artist began and the ideas of the ‘funkeiro’ ended. After Fininho left the scene, Cabelo created, in exhibitions abroad and around Brazil, a series of characters, perhaps to disguise the strong presence of his partner-alterego in his life and work. Today, the question that remains for everyone is who is the creator and who is the creature. Cabelo will never answer that question, proving that the influence of Fininho in the musical and visual culture in Rio can not be contained and should not be silenced by critics and art historians. What the funks of Fininho and the art work of Cabelo, first performed together in this exhibition of Gentil Carioca, may elucidate – or increase – is this border that both invite us to cross. Because it is worth remembering that for Cabelo and Fininho, the talk is straight, the mission is sinister, and the shit is neurotic.

This text is dedicated to Fausto Fawcett and Silvio Essinger