In the way Garage music can be heard across the 2010’s in vain of a revivalist fashion, Funky deserves that second treatment of new life

Words by Brinsley Chidavaenzi

There’s the classic saying of enjoying things while they last. This statement can apply to just about anything, but in the world of UK dance music, they can apply to two specific lives of genres: garage (UKG) and funky (UKF). Garage’s mainstream prominence was about the same lifespan at the Sony Dreamcast – with both arriving at the same time (1999 to 2001).
“The key to understanding the music that followed the grime and dubstep of the mid 00’s was the contemporary transformation of Britain’s black communities.” – Professor Paul Gilroy from The Most Unruly’s ‘Drake – The Everyman of Rap’ 
Garage is a reaction from jungle and house, and UK funky as a reaction to dubstep and grime – smoother alternatives to more jagged and raw expressions of the new wave of British music from disenfranchised youth born from technological advancements and multiculturalism across diasporas and socio-economic circumstance. UK funky’s short lifespan and years of prominence (arguably 2009-2011) then shifting into (UK) Afrobeats then later into afro swing (which is a genre that further distils influences from all previous genres mentioned) is a sign that the music always mutates out of necessity and will never truly fade. In the way garage can be heard across the 2010’s in vain of a revivalist fashion, funky deserves that second treatment of new life. UK R&B has finally received the spotlight the scene has always deserved (NAO, Jorja Smith, Etta Bond, Mahalia, Mabel, IAMDDB) and even artists operating outside of the R&B scene and ultimately now even globally, due to the wonderful effects of globalisation and the shrinking world of post-location/region culture on the internet.

House is still prominent and a party starter across the world across the different decades of the genre and now with the latest iteration of soulful/post-Dilla house (Kaytranada, Flying Lotus, Disclosure) and other forms of four on the floor (Peggy Gou, Flava D), funky can translate well internationally. Ironically when Drake sampled Crazy Cousinz and Kyla’s Do You Mind for One Dance it opened a huge well and opportunity for people to discover the funky sound for a new generation.

But the UK mainstream has had a history of trouble in pushing genres into the mainstream with an uneasy to define sound (luckily now this is less of a problem.) There are new infrastructures that govern the success of music which aren’t dependent on radio (streaming/YouTube and general sharing of music) which weren’t fully realised at the height of first-generation funky which bypass gatekeepers. The goal isn’t just to have a revival and a stick ‘formula’ for what funky could sound but ultimately a template and all the possibility to transcend it’s starting point to add depth to the rich legacy where the genre grew from. We all determine every genre’s fate: the listeners, the music makers, the DJ’s, the promoters who book DJ’s that play certain styles. None of us are passive in what ends up with the most visibility, it’s a communal experience that each and every one of us participates in. I grew up hearing ‘Flowers’ by Sweet Female Attitude on the radio, I heard Crazy Cousinz’s ‘Bongo Jam’ as a young teen and now J Hus’s ‘Did You See’, I wonder what’s going to be next in the lineage of new underground British dance music.

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