For me, the last 6 months have been extremely exciting within the UK dance music scene. Not only do we have some of the craziest sound design taking a lead role, or club nights selling out around the country with UK music as the main feature, although they are pretty flippin cool if you ask me. No the reason I have been fascinated is due to the fact that UK Funky is well and truly back in town and doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere.
For me, Rhythm and groove is the single most important factor in dance music, purely because, well, it makes people dance. The feeling you can have when a new unexpected groove hits you in a dance and you are physically compelled to move, there is nothing like it, and unfortunately with sound design becoming a much more prominent part of bass music especially, often the rhythmic elements of tracks have to take a back seat.
For me, the more rhythmic elements of the pop style afrobeats and dancehall genres which have been making headway around the worldwide charts have had a massive impact on what the casual listener wants to hear, with the tripletted drum style and syncopated snares becoming prominent features. Dance music by its own definition is music designed for the clubs, so it makes perfect sense to me that these more rhythm based elements would be incorporated into dance music as some point. Funky as a genre however has been doing that for years, allowing the syncopation of snares and percussive melodies to provide the exhilaration.
In terms of UK dance music, Funky holds the crown on the rhythmic front, constantly creating unexpected pockets of movement through percussive leads and spacious yet compelling drum work. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of UK bass artists who have no trouble keeping their rhythmic elements prominent and a positive addition to their compositions, with Champion taking the crown for me. In fact, Champion is a producer who has never strayed to far from his funkier influences, always incorporating witty grooves to his work, such as below:
As time goes on however, the specifics and boundaries of UK Funky have expanded, often giving way to even more vibrant and lively creative structure. You have newer artists such as TC4 folding explosive samba themes and carnival style percussion into their recordings, always resulting in incredibly exciting layouts and subtextures. You also have the forefathers such as Roska heading up projects like RKAS, continuously innovating the sound without overthinking or destroying its key features.
There are a lot of people to thank for this new wave, this resurgence if you will, and we were lucky enough to grab a quick conversation with one of the people we have found to be extremely influential in its uprising. Rikki Van Berkel aka RVB has been heading up the ‘The UK Is Funky’ Facebook community, from which a bag of fresh talent has been found.
Q: How did the current development of UK Funky come about?
RVB: I have a confession to make here straight away, I’m a relative newcomer to funky and I think I joined the wave just as it was picking up again. What I think attracted people like me to it is how diverse and exciting the scene is now. People from a wide variety of genres that are looking for something new have found funky so I guess it’s a combination of lots of people wanting something new at the same time that’s driving this uplift. It’s also important to note that funky never really went anywhere. RKS has been churning out quality releases for time and the scene has always been strong, it’s just more people are taking notice now.
Q: Do you feel the Facebook community has played a big part in this resurgence?
RVB: I hope so! in the early days it showed people there was an audience for this kind of music which encouraged people to start making more of it. The community aspect also meant there was so many great open conversations that shaped how people approached the genre and instilled a really positive attitude that has propelled us forward. I think it will have a bigger part to play in future as the scene grows, it’s turning into a place that people are going to learn what funky is all about, showcase their work and make connections. Just last week someone asked what Uk Funky was at St. Paul’s carnival and there were so many people from the group plugging their sets, someone then suggested a meetup from group members during Marcus nastys set, and it actually happened! The fact that a Facebook group has led to that kind of connection is fucking cool!
Q: How much do you feel Bass Music is affected by Funky at the moment
RVB: One track answers this perfectly for me – distinkt, assassins. Bass music has found a highly effective formula hence its popularity but producers will always want to experiment and try new things, this is where funky comes in. Taking a funky spin on a bass track allows you to have fun with the percussion and experiment whilst holding onto that bass that flips a nightclub on its head. The great thing about funky though is that it goes fair beyond bass music and has the potential to impact on so many genres, for example skream is now getting big on his funky.
Q: Are you a fan of the direction Funky appears to be going in?
RVB: Honestly, I couldn’t tell you what direction it’s going in, but that’s something I’m a big fan of. Right now I could comfortably get booked on any line up and play a variation of funky that will appeal to that crowd. So long as we maintain that originality and excitement, I’m happy!
Q: Who do you feel are the faces really setting pace right now?
RVB: Shit, this is tough because I’ve got to make sure I don’t forget anyone! I’d say Ali Mck & Iyz, TC4, ARMA, Noire, Fonzo, AAEE, Bandi, The whole RKS gang, The more time gang. Apologies to anyone I forgot, I try to keep charts on beatport and spotify up to date so anyone I have forgotten will be feature on there!
Q:What is next for the funky scene in the UK?
RVB: Events. UK funky is breaking back into the club scene again which is great as it means artists can start to get paid again. St pauls carnival was great evidence that the club audience is there, Bristol and London are picking up funky events more and more so once promoters pick up on it the scene will really start to explode!
It definitely appears that Funky is truly back and here to stay, with a new generation cult following developing rapidly and an exciting new wave of producers and DJ’s being supported and brought in to the already established projects and DJ selections. It’s an exciting time and as ever with UK dance music, we never know what’s around the corner!