2010 was an odd year… UK funky progressed, got slated, got rated and also got frustrated. But why and how? More importantly how will it be overcome? What lessons can be learnt? What needs to be changed and what needs to stay the same? Having the title of the UK Funky blogger, I felt it only right to take a deeper look. Following analysis, here you’ll find the conclusion…
Article by Makeda ‘QoS’ WIlson.
Coming through a year of spectacular growth, evolving faster than anyone could have forecasted, UK funky entered 2010 with a great level of uncertainty. The birth of the MCs and skanks having a strong ripple effect into many directions, difference of personal opinions were being expressed from the various counterparts that form the scene. New listeners turned on by the MC influx strongly divided, some became discouraged with the lack of new material and continued to follow the mainstream buzz away from the scene to other genres, whilst others explored the music deeper, still appreciative of the MC element of the sound alongside the others. The initial barrier to get music heard via commercial media outlets has evidently remained officially broken however, something that has to be credited largely to MC/Skank tracks like Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes and Migraine Skank of the yesteryear, homegrown and international tracks dominating the club circuit can still be seen on TV and heard regularly on commercial radio.
What music that reaches past the commercial barrier though has remained very limited, meaning that a distorted conception is possessed by the majority of the public. Many who are guilty of being amongst those who were discouraged. Major label A&Rs who are no longer showing interest due to poor single sales the previous year, leaves the majority, if not all new releases to be done independently. By the time 2010 had completed the month of March, funky had been declared as commercially dead amongst the masses. Large groups openly stating that they didn’t like Funky anymore due to it being boring.
Quality music is still being produced. However with such major emphasis on the MCs in the yesteryear, DJs on commercial stations readily forsake them, for productions from peers within the circuit who they’d see on a regular basis regardless of the true quality. New producers regularly complain that it is very hard to be heard and feel that it contributes to the misconstrued commercial perception of the genre. Many outsiders feeling that they cannot take the music seriously in its participation to the overall growth of homegrown music, funky has become the mediocre genre standing beside its cousins in hope to somehow fit in. That said, a line from Ramzee’s ‘Hand In The Air’ was highlighted by the legendary Wiley and #UniteTheRaver soon became a Twitter trending topic with the varied persons from the entire homegrown industry joining in and discovering a liking for the track. Evidently the quality sounds of all elements of the genre are failing to breakthrough in their true achievable capacities.
Although the thoughts of the outsiders have changed, relief is felt from insiders starting a new advancement. The MCs no longer hold such a large majority of the spotlight and DJ/Producers are beginning to receive long deserved recognition. Taking the music internationally, new growth and new audience has been achieved untarnished by the peer pressures of the club scene. Those who nurtured the sound during initial fruition have been constantly travelling across seas educating a global audience of the productions deep within the UK funky circuit. The international interest of the genre has continued to grow, many more producers from foreign countries have got involved, as well as DJs, listeners etc.
Many are taking the time to nurture the music; Donaeo, Princess Nyah, Roska and Katy B have made major contributions to the scene, this year they showed collectively that consistency and determination can lead to progression such as regular commercial radio play, international tours and top 5 selling chart singles. These successes have continued to motivate upcoming producers and artists trying to break through to the forefront of the scene. Footsteps stated at the start of the year that 2010 would be the year of the DJ/Producer – Focal points would change as a whole, the year being a starting point. He may have been correct. DJs and producers of the circuit are continuing to show large amounts of support for eachother and many DJs are now also producing the music.
Whilst DJ/producers are gaining more recognition, artists are still being strongly overlooked. Vocalists are being heavily overshadowed which is most evident within the club scene. PAs are still dominated by MCs, making it unusual to see a vocalist headlining an event. Whilst tracks are still being produced, they are struggling to be fed across to the public in more ways than one. Losing battle on both radio and within the club circuit, frustrations are understood.
With DJs, producers and artists working so hard throughout the year to gain similar amounts of attention as paid to the MCs, it’s unfortunate that although there have been various attempts to gain the same buzz originally created with their initial influx, none have been successful. Yet still there is a large network within the scene that manages to keep them at the forefront, keeping them the first thing the mind associates to the word ‘funky’. Some do continue to make consistent contribution to the overall scene, but at such a small ratio, is such strong emphasis justified?
Members of the scene with true passion for the music have continued to embrace the parenting house genre. Producers have continued to master their craft having great impact on the production levels. Many funky tracks being produced can be played alongside the veteran producers of the house genre without the obvious difference in quality that the genre was ridiculed for in it’s initial stage. Many producers are now working with record labels making official remixes, showing that some commercial interest still remains, even if not via major labels signing artists and releasing singles.
Going forth, the requirement of quality control is still strongly plaguing the progress of the genre. A scene conducted on personal networks and cliques as opposed to what is good quality. Does a successful business invest in what is the better product to market as opposed to what’s closer to home? Whilst good quality music continues to put up a steady resistance, the understanding of quality over quantity has been disregarded by many participants in all capacities making it harder to control.
The unity of the scene has been embraced once again, the main factor that spurred original fruition. With more vocal tracks starting to get through the barriers will young ladies be chanting in clubs to bring new anthems as were Do You Mind, Tell Me What It Is, Go and Frontline? Can the higher end MCs make tracks that can be gently blended in and appreciated by all as was MC Versatile’s Funky Anthem? Does 2011 hold a rebirth of the scene how it originally stood, this time having been regenerated with a much larger community?
2010 was an educating year for the funky scene, it cannot be disputed that there was a strong downfall with regards to breaking the commercial barrier. Though funky would not be the first genre to go back underground after getting a taste of the mainstream market. With all vultures eliminated, the scene has been given space to solidify its foundations and be prepared the next time opportunity arises for homegrown takeover. The year has been musically won over by the grime genre which arose many years before funky. Truly united with all contributors of the genre working together to shine as equals, who knows what could be achieved in 2011 and beyond…
Photo credit: Mynado/