The Wonderful World of Funk

What is funk?

Funk is hard to describe without being able just to pump it straight into your earholes... the best way to understand what funk is all about is to listen to it; lots of it, over and over. It is noted often in art aesthetics that art is something that you either inherently FEEL, or you don't; there is no coherent method that can accurately describe it in verbal terms. Funk is similar. George Clinton states: "The more one thinks about it, the harder it is to get the feel of The Funk. It's just done."
Funk will speak to you harmonically, rhythmically, conceptually, philosophically, and sociologically. This is to say that funk not only has specific rhythmic and melodic characteristics, but a characteristic message and attitude as well... the Funky Attitude.

"Git It All..."

All you seasoned funkateers can remember that first funk song which really did it to you; your toes started tapping, your ass began moving from side to side, your body wanted to contort itself in ways you didn't realize it could shape itself before... if we do indeed have spirit animals, yours was clawing at your throat attempting to howl itself free. If you've just stumbled on to the funk, are a funky soul but just don't know it yet, this will happen to you, hopefully sooner than later. Yet funk spans a variety of distinct styles.

"The Road to Love..."

Categorizing anything is risky, because it involves generalization, and you can't generalize anything without leaving out the stray sheep that don't fit into any specific categories. Although these do not necessarily cover the entire spectrum of Funk, here are some of the major funky paradigms:
Let's not forget some other genres of music which either influenced, or were influenced by funk.

Funk was arguably the pinnacle of black music, fusing together every previous style into a crescendo of THE BEST... like a writer or painter who, in his golden age, produces his greatest works as a result of years and years of experience. Funk is like a musical quilt; panels constructed by great masters which, combined together, form a MASTERPIECE.

The Sound of Funk

To those familiar with funk, the word "funky" is a given definition, like gravity or water; it's very difficult to describe water without using the word water. Water is, well... water.
Funk sounds, well... funky. But why?

"Syncopated Madness..."

I'm not a scholar of music by any means, but syncopation generally involves elements (different instruments and drums) being played on the OFF BEAT.
Disco was generally unsyncopated. Everything in the song happened on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th beat of each four beat measure. Part of what gives funk its slippery, elusive sound is the technique of playing certain instruments on beats in between.
Think about breaking the beat down into "1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &". Or even "1 &&& 2 &&& 3 &&& 4 &&&". The drums might be played on the "1 2 3 4" beat, while the keyboard and horns punch in on carefully planned "&"'s within the beat. Syncopation can get quite complex, and in fact, makes its way straight back to African origins.

Herbie Hancock presents:
(from the album "Headhunters")
A perfect example of syncopation. Note how the hihat hits directly on the beat, while the snare hits on the offbeat. Note also the interesting interplay of the guitar and keyboard.

"Everything is On the One..."

This is a term coined by P-Funk in a song which in fact demonstrates this very principle. This is another rhythmic technique in which dynamic emphasis is placed on the first beat of each four beat count. The word "dynamic" refers to volume. In this technique, the volume and amount of instrumentation backs off near the end of the fourth beat, then BOOMS again on the first beat of the next count.

Parliament presents:
"Everything is On the One"
(from the album "The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein")
Count out the beats and listen carefully to the manner in which the song tends to back off towards the 4th beat, then booms on the first beat.

"Jungle Boogie..."

Most funk has a way of sounding like a huge party is happening all around you. If you're at a live funk show, you will note that this is true. But even funk recorded in the studio captures this effect. Sometimes it's literal: listen to Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give it Up", or Brass Construction's "Dance"... you'll hear what sounds like a room full of people yelling and laughing in the background.
But funk tended also to break the 4-5 member band rule. Funk is often IN YOUR FACE simply because there are about ten or more people singing. More people means more power, and a bigger party. Listen to Parliament's "Tear the Roof Off" with your headphones on... as soon as the band starts singing, it's as if they're right there in the room with you, an entire choir standing a foot away from your ear singing in seven different octaves.
Many people have said that funk is sweaty, sticky, hot, even smelly. It seems to bring out a primal, animalistic feeling... all of the animals in the jungle are dancing... even the sloth is getting down. (Mandrill especially conveys this feeling.)

Brass Construction presents:
(from the album "Brass Construction")
There's no doubt that there's a party goin' on all around this jam.

"How do YOU spell relief?"

As beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is funk in the ear of the funkateer. Why not see what other people have to say about funk, and throw in your own funky two-cents?
Send inyour definition of funk along with your name and it will be posted as soon as possible.

Peter Wermelinger sez:
"The group Rare Gems Odyssey includes a track called
'What is Funk?'.  Maybe listen to that."

Paul Golin sez:

J-P Schnorr sez:
"Funk is the feeling you get when you have eaten a lot of greasy
chicken, when you got that grease all over your hands -- That's Funk!"

Raymond's Meaning of Funk:
"Funk is that moment when you realize that your ass is no longer
under your conscious control, and it intends to have far more fun
than you will be able to rationalize the next day.  P-funk is 
when you decide that you are going to try and make the rest of
you out-freak your ass."

Rookie Radiostar Jim sez:
"Funk is all-star 3-D freestyle double-knit butt-bompin'
soul-system groove-moves."

Da Funky G. sez:
"Funk makes your body need to groove in places you never
knew existed.  Funk is what makes your nostrils, your
pinky toes move to the beat."

Gwen Arkin sez:
"Funk is the shit that makes your socks go up and down."

Woody708 sez:
"The definition is in itself."

Simon C0t0 sez:
"Funk is when your soul is on fire from desire to go higher,
when you can hear the throbassonic supergroovalisticprosifunkstication
sound waves and a tear comes out your eye. Then you really know your soul's
been touched by the music... then you know you're a true funkateer..."

Oliver Thayer sez:

"Funk is the ultimate head remedy freak extremity... there's a natural
mystic blowing through the air..."

gustaf.c sez:

"I've not been listening to funk very much, but I still love it
greatly. I believe that the funk is about living life as it is, and
try to make something good of it. I used to be a very melancolic
person, and in some ways I still am,  but when I listen to funk
everything feels better. Funk is one of the deeper meanings of life.
Funk is almost 42 (you know what I mean if youve read the funky book
"The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy")."

Max sez:

"We're born naked, investigating Mother Natures legacy..or what's left of
it... Question Gods' invisibilty, daring the devil, testing the 
substantiality of the universe.  Submitted to our destiny, we are the 
chosen release the freaks ! Fill your eyes with the bright Funk 
that shines upon you and you will know no color. Avoid the non-funkers...
they don't know that all the knowledge mankind needs is hidden inside the 
groove, the bass & the good vibes !"

Frozix sez:

"Fonk is the whole meaning of life & what it's all about.
If you're fonkin' you're always feelin' somethin' between
GOOD & NASTY... just move your ass and your head will follow."

Todd Thomas sez:

"Funk is your golden and gritty path to a place we have all 
conceived of but never quite been to.  The Funk is both hide
and seek - Rhythmicpsychotherapy."

Kenji sez:

"Funk was the shit you turned up on your boombox while taking the 
A-train through Brooklyn on your way to Money Making Manhattan.
People would give you stupid looks as you blasted Good times cut
by some street deejay on his coffin turntables & Gemini mixer...
Funk was the shit I would listen to when I would be spraying
Krylon fed purple on a handball court in Jamaica Queens...
I remember funk..."

madmasta sez:

"F-reaky U-nlimited N-eurotic K-aos"

d dula sez:

"Funk is the feeling in the air when you're schtoinkin with your
lady - it's sweet it's sticky it's salty it's hot, it's when you
dip your little strawberry in the chocolate fondue, dig, but it's
that vibe in the music.  Put a glide in your stride, a dip in your
hip, & come on board the Mothership!"

Dr. Feelgood sez:

"It starts on the one, ends on the four, and funked if you can
control what happens in the middle."

TBaizt sez:

"Funk is not to be explained.  It is to be felt.  `Now Do U Wanta
Dance' by Graham Central Station makes you really feel it."

Matthieu sez:

"Le Funk est une musique qui incarne la joie c'est un petit rayon
de soleil qui perce a travers les nuages de la monotonie."
(Rough translation: "The Funk is a music which brings out the joy. 
It is a small sunbeam which bores through the clouds of monotony.")

Phunko the clown sez:

"Funk is a vibration from your soul let out through every pore of 
your body when your mind knows the time to funk out has arrived.  
It is, as Webster quotes, `in a frightened state of panic' but in 
the funk-a-delic world it is getting far beyond the fright and into 
a hyper-fly-jive from the inner soul of every being on this planet 
and every other galaxy to create an enlightened state of peace and 
harmonius happiness.  Funk is all around you, just gotta find yours."

Rick Dunetz sez:

"Groove is in the Heart... but FUNK is in the ASS."

Frank Szakaly sez:

"Funk is that feeling you get driving along in your shiny yellow
'79 Continental with the seat way back and one arm on the leopard-
skin (imitation!) seat covers and the other hand with a big gold
ring tapping on the wheel as you sing along wit the P-Funk looking
for someone to get superfreaky with.

Henrik Hansson sez:

"Funk is when you connect your old Hohner Clavinet to the wah-pedal
and spend the next hour playin' Chester Thompson's amazing
`Knock Yourself Out' riff from the 1976 Tower of Power album
`Live and In Living Color'.  Now that's funk, OK?"

XELboX sez:

"Funk is Chitlin Fu Yung."

Chris Funk sez:

"Funk is me... I am da Funk... (Really, it's my name.)"

Main Base sez:

"Funk is the absence of choice, that groove that taps into something so
primal and powerful that you can't help but groove to it.  It's looking
stupid but not caring, it's singing out loud even if you can't carry a tune
in a bucket, it's smiling from ear to ear on the shittiest day you've ever
had because the beat lifts you up.  It is universal, unparalleled, and in
the end, unexplainable.  You can give all the technical definitions of beats
and syncopation, but in the end, your ass either shakes, or it doesn't."

Kiddfunk sez:

"Funk is a joint rolled in toilet paper! or a Hamhoc in your cornflakes!"

Big Mike sez:

"Funk is when you're in the hospital recovering from a car crash and
you re-break your neck and all your bones in your full body cast
because you can't help but move and groove to an old Sly+TFS album your
buddy brought you bacause he knows you can't live without the funk."

Nathan Sherlock sez:

"Funk is the groovalicious state of mind that lets you unwind as the
beat/bass unity-mass-attack makes your glam shine and your hips move right
on time!!  Yes, take a break and enjoy the funk state that will make
reality evacuate and your waste vibrate while you shake your thaaaang to
the jamtastic funkified housequake!!"

JRedmon sez:

"FUNK is in your blood. It takes over your entire body,
including your brain, without your consent.  If you are
really feeling it, tear drops can form in the wells of
your eyes.  However, either a smile or a very serious,
concentrated facial expression will be displayed.  The
bobbing of your head CAN NOT be controlled!
   It is a longing to escape this ever so destructive
society or the personal Hells that we all face.  It
provides the opportunity to focus on the way out of
here!  It is survival expressed through intstruments
and verse.  Finally, you know it is powerful because it
crosses all racial and economical boundaries, showing
no discrimination. The absolute TRUTH, there are no
secrets kept!"


"hey, funk is a sound that slaps you in the face and pokes you in the ass
and makes you want to get up and dance or grab your bass and bang it
out.  just listen to some P-FUNK, or GC solo and you'll get the idea."

what is funk? -- where is funk?
funky links -- funky trader's list
bones in motion
The Artists of Funk:
classic funk - the 70's -- electrified funk - the 80's
support your local funk
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