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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Proibidão, which literally translates to "strongly prohibited," is a genre of Brazilian funk (pronounced "funkee") music originating from the favelas of Rio de Janeiro where it began in the early 1990s as a parallel phenomenon to the growth of drug gangs in the many slums of the city. The drug gangs sponsored DJs and baile funks in the favelas they controlled to spread respect and love for their gang as well as hate to the other gangs. The music that resulted is proibidão and its most famous example is Rap das Armas.

Proibidão is characterized as a raw mix of live funk vocals and miami bass structures. The explicit lyrics typically promote the gang the MC is affiliated with, crime, drug use, and violence. Like gang members, MCs who speak ill of their allied gang or perform outside of their gang's territory risk the possibility of violence or death. Each drug gang, in their own favela(s), sponsoring their own baile funk, with their own MC results in a unique sound. The highly territorial nature of the gangs has made proibidão an extremely localized form of funk in Rio De Janeiro. Moreover, in Brazil, it is against the law to promote crime in song lyrics which makes most proibidão songs illegal to perform or broadcast through radio (hence the name "proibidão"). These two factors seldom allow proibidão to be heard beyond the live performances in favela. Proibidão is a raw musical genre that captures the dark side of Brazilian favelas.

One particularly powerful gang, the Comando Vermelho, Portuguese for Red Command, has had great success recruiting memberse through their dances. ). While giving poor youths free girls, drinks, and entertainment, they hope to engrain a positive image of drug-dealing and gang membership to Rio youths. In Red Command released CDs, their gang sign, a CV, sits across the label, representing the community and the gang instead of the artists. The Red Command's influence was best shown in 1990, when William Santos de Souza and Duda, the "Kings of Rio rap" at the time, released a track entitled, "Rap do Borel" shouting out to a gang-controlled favela in Rio. No gang better represents Proibidao than the Commando Vermelho.

Proibidão has some very important implications for the acquisition of social space in Rio. For the gangs and drug lords, it represents a form of musical expression that corresponds to territorial dominance. In effect, when these gangs host their particular bailes, they assert their authority over rival gangs and state law enforcement. Since Proibidão elicits the criminal lifestyle and habitual drug use which characterize its performers, police naturally attempt to stop the bailes and the correlative spread of Proibidão. Thus, when myriad bailes do subsist each week, despite the efforts of state programs like D.R.E (Divisão de Repressão an Entorpecentes or Division of the Repression Against Drugs) to stop them, it is a palpable win for the gangs. In addition to just hosting these bailes, the gangs recruit urban youth and advertise their daily struggle, which makes the favela bailes a crucial social space in which gangs can conduct business. While the media views this musical genre as promoting gang violence, drug use, and crime overall, those people who perform it, like MC Catra, contend that it is more of an expression of the favela experience unique to them which, generally being one of oppression, should be expected to contain explicit content. In this way, Proibidão is important both as a vehicle for free expression of the favela life and for claims to social space which tend to defy the social, political and economic strata of Brazil. Although, Proibidao is see as a criminal, inadequate use of a cultural expression that should not be promoted and even not considered as art, but rather a soft criminal difusion communication tool.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Proibidão" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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