Image by Nath Martin

A beginner’s guide to all things funky, with Ghetto Funk Collective

Bringing together the best local and internationally-renowned dance crews, Breakin’ Convention will be unleashing an explosion of sound, colour and movement at Brighton Dome this month.

Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, this travelling international festival of dance theatre showcases exceptional Hip Hop crews. These include top-poppers, lockers, B-boys and B-girls, plus showstopping global acts. You’ll also find live DJs, graffiti artists and freestyle dance sessions, so everyone can join in. 

Ghetto Funk Collective by Paul Hampartsoumian

Over the past 20 years, Breakin’ Convention has grown to be an important reference point and showcase for talent today. It presents relevant acts who simply need to be seen.

It represents the origins and evolution of Hip Hop culture from around the world and around the corner. Through its international festivals and tours and professional advancement programme, Breakin’ Convention is at the vanguard of the global development of Hip Hop theatre artists.  

Founded by Hip Hop theatre pioneer Jonzi D, it forms part of Sadler’s Wells Theatre and bases its annual festival there. Touring nationally since 2007, and internationally since 2013, this has brought an uncompromising and Funky brand of dance performance to live audiences of over 100,000.

Among the superstar crews headed to Brighton Dome on Sat 3 June are Ghetto Funk Collective from the Netherlands.

Co-founded by best friends Ruben Chi and Roché Apinsa, this assemblage of dancers, musicians and DJs have created their own Funk-fuelled movement, sound and experience. They’ll be performing It’s On The One, inspired by a musical term describing a tight and syncopated rhythm which emphasis the first beat of each measure. Legendary star James Brown often directed his band with this during live performances. The dancers take the audience on a journey paying homage to their scene’s rich cultural heritage. They infuse it with a fresh, modern sensibility in a celebration of dance styles and a testament to its enduring power.

But what is Funk? Can it even be defined? Funk certainly brings people together. It has nothing to do with colour or class. It gives everyone the freedom to express themselves as part of a larger community. But it’s more than wearing expensive clothes, going to the cool clubs or playing on the first beat of the bar. Not everyone is Funky, but everyone could be.  And everyone should be.

Ahead of their performance at Breakin’ Convention, we asked Ruben and Roché from Ghetto Funk Collective to tell us about what Funk is to them…

Image by Belinda Lawley

What makes Funk musically different to other styles?

Ruben Chi: I would say – It’s such a universal sound. It houses all emotions and brings people together, while keeping this raw essence to it. It has such strong characteristics as a strong groove – driven nature, rhythmic complexity and use of syncopation and this call and response structure. 

Musically – Funk is on the one, it emphasizes the first beat in every measure. It’s saying that everyone is going through different rhythms in life, we all have our own ups and downs, and it reflects in our own approach to rhythm – but we always come back on the one, to celebrate our oneness together.  And this, for me – is what you hear in Funk. You know, if you hear Funk – you just want to dance to it…

What ‘modern’ Funk record does everyone need to hear?

Ruben Chi: We would give it up for our friends from Jungle – for who we choreographed a music video last year and we are really stoked about… So, we are going for Jungle Good Times / Problemz.

Image by Paul Hampartsoumian

How has Funk endured so well? Is this because of its ability to embrace new technology and blend with other musical styles like Hip Hop and soul?

Roché Apinsa: Funk blends in with all kinds of music, its frequency is really uplifting. Its ability to resonate with diverse audiences, its influential impact globally and its adaptability is what makes it so unique. The music engages you well and the groove is always present in its essence.

I guess its endurance is indeed influenced by its capacity to embrace new technology and blend with other musical styles like Hip Hop and Soul or even more alternative genres. 

What are the five best drum breaks in history?

Roché Apins: If we talk about drum breaks, of course we have to start with the all-time classic – Jimmy Castor Bunch It’s Just Begun. And not to forget James Brown Funky Drummer, Incredible Bongo Band Apache, James Brown Cold Sweat… and any Nate Smith drum breaks. Ha-ha!

Image by Belinda Lawley

Are the DJs as important in Funk and Hip Hop culture as the musicians?

Ruben Chi: In Funk music, DJs often serve as tastemakers and curators, selecting and playing records that represent the spirit of the genre. They are responsible for creating seamless transitions between songs, mixing different tracks together, and maintaining a continuous flow of music that keeps the energy alive. 

Funk DJs are adept at blending and manipulating tracks to create new sounds and experiences, incorporating elements like breakbeats, samples, and scratching techniques to enhance the music – such as our brothers Rob Manga & Lucas Benjamin from the Ghetto Funk Collective who are really paving new ways within the Funk sound while staying authentic to the roots of it. 

Similarly, in Hip Hop culture, DJs have been instrumental since its inception. They were the pioneers who laid the foundation for the genre by using turntables to loop and manipulate drum breaks from Funk and soul records. DJs such as Grandmaster Flash, Kool Herc, and Afrika Bambaataa played a pivotal role in shaping the early sound of Hip Hop through their innovative techniques. DJs continue to be central figures in Hip Hop, providing beats, scratching, and mixing skills that form the backbone of the music. And i think it’s beautiful to see the connection between those two. Funk is like a father to Hip Hop and they strengthen each other.

Image by Paul Hampartsoumian

Is fashion a big component of Funk culture?

Roché Apinsa: Yes, it is. I know that back in the day, when people would go out to visit a club, they would always dress up well and it was important to shine and be presented well. The way you would dress up would say something about your character. So yes, I think fashion plays a significant role in Funk culture. It is an important component that reflects the spirit, attitude, and aesthetic of the genre. Funk fashion emerged alongside the music in the 1960s and 1970s, and it continues to have a lasting impact on popular culture. 

What five albums would you suggest someone check out to start their Funk record collection?

Ruben Chi: James Brown – In The Jungle Groovee 

The J.B’s – Doing It To Death 

Jamiroquai – A Funk Odyssey 

Lettuce – Unify 

FKJ – French Kiwi Juice

How do you dance to Funk? Is there a set of rules, or is ‘feeling’ more important?

Roche Apinsa: I think, personally, it always starts with the feeling, and the feeling comes from the music.  So, it’s the music which initiates that feeling that makes you want to dance, at least for us it is. Of course, in dance there are rules, many techniques, movements that you can practice and work on, but when it comes to dance – In essence it is not about your training or your skills. It’s about the relationship between you and the music. 

Ghetto Funk Collective perform at Breakin’ Convention, alongside BPM Dance Academy, Project Female, StreetFunk, Visual Artists, Will Timpson, Urban City Dance, Mover and Yvonne Smink, at Brighton Dome on Sat 3 June.

Discover more about Breakin’ Convention

Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.