Funky House: A Profile Of The Scene

As the budget flights take the nation's youth off for the summer season in Ayia Napa, Melissa Bradshaw gives The Quietus the lowdown on what's happening in the funky house scene.

As July kicks in London’s sexiest young urban thing will be making its annual pilgrimage to Ayia Napa.

I’m talking about funky house, and yes it’s new. Though there’s been no radical upheaval in its musical structure (if there had it wouldn’t be funky house now would it?), several trends, some years long, have coalesced with the result that funky house is currently totally fresh.

The scene is comprised of a core of DJs, most of them in their mid/late twenties, who are long term ravers. Some of them, like MA1, Kismet, and NG were into house and garage before 2step evolved and split off from its forebear. By the time grime evolved out of 2step’s darkside, they were alienated. The moody, unpolished sound didn’t do it for them.

In the summer of 2006 grime/dubstep blogger Martin Clark aka Blackdown reported <a href=”" target="out">on the bubbling funky house scene and speculated that it could provide an alternative to the already increment repetitiousness of dubstep. In 2005 DJ Supa D, who had dabbled in garage and then grime, played a straight house set on station Déjà vu on Christmas Day. The co-founder of Rinse FM, Geeneus, had also started getting into it.

By the summer of 2007 the Napa scene saw funky get increasingly mixed in with other current genres. As Blackdown explained, this had a lot to do with the demands of Napa’s ravers, and a kind of anything goes attitude from DJs well known in other scenes. An offshoot of this was a confusion at A&R level that has become the butt of grass roots jokes. One that circulates in particular is about dubstep’s Benga getting called up by A&Rs asking for funky tunes because his tune ‘Night’ had been so ubiquitously mixed in with the sound. Typical A&Rs not knowing their half-steps from their shuffles! Garage and grime DJs in Napa were also picking up on funky via Napa nights like Circle, Precious Love and Red Carpet.

At the end of 2007 Warner subsidiary Firm Music put out Pure Garage <<Rewind<<: Back to the Old Skool, mixed by legendary garage DJ EZ, a staple of the Napa scene, with ‘Night’ next to Shut Up and Dance’s ‘Glory Days’ and on the same CD as bassline’s Wideboys and Dexplicit, and garage heavyweights from Agent X to Sweet Female Attitude. Spring 2008 and Rinse, firming up their newfound clout as a label, put out the first ‘funky’ compilation, mixed by Supa D. (Summer 2008 and Noel Clark’s film Adulthood features a clip of MA1 and Sophia’s ‘I’m Right Here’. If you were a Rinse regular and hadn’t listened in for a year, you’d be in for a tempo shock if you tuned in now: about 60% of their shows are funky. The vibe couldn’t be more different from the dubstep dominance of a year ago.

The same goes for funky raves. While dubstep and grime were longtime sausage fests, funky house nights are full of women glammed up to the nines, wearing heels that could puncture your carotid artery, and drinking champagne. The men wear shirts. Because the sound is overarchingly sexy, with a shuffle provided by various rhythmic techniques and a predominance of female vocals, it’s like London reborn out of a long dominance of bass and moody minimalism.

Even if you can’t make it out to Napa anytime in the next six weeks, you can still catch the vibe, or at least get ready for the return of the best DJs in the scene by downloading mixes <a href=”" target="out">here and here. It’s summer and London’s ready to rave. Just make sure you know about the following:

Funky, UK Funky, House and Funky, or Wonky?

Some will say ‘I’m going funky raving’. They mean nothing about flares. ‘Funky’ versus ‘Funky House’ both is and isn’t a serious source of contention. The abbreviated term first became used by ravers with their thing for swift moving vernacular. Then certain DJs began to adopt it to describe the specifically UK type of post-grime funky house beginning to be made by DJs like Geeneus and Apple, whose standout tunes Yellowtail (Geeneus) and Mr Bean (Apple) are mapping out new directions for specifically UK house. Then other DJs like Supa and Kismet made it known they’re sticking with ‘funky house’, because funky was a poorly produced bastardised version not in tune the long tradition of masterfully produced global house. Geeneus seems to be going with ‘House and Funky’ in order to keep both sides of it under one roof but still separate. A comic episode occurred earlier this summer when Circle decided to use the term ‘Wonky’, which is currently being used elsewhere to describe a kind of skewiff hip-hop. More on that later.


There are lots of bongos in funky house. Producers like Paris’ DJ Gregory (see legendary track ‘Elle’) and New York’s Osunlade have long mastered the use of bongos and such. In UK funky, Crazy Cousinz’s ‘Bongo Jam’ is a massive hit. It features a male vocal chorus that goes ‘Sometimes I like to wake up in the morning, and play my bong-bong-bongos’ and a little female vocal that goes ‘I love to play my bongos in the moooorning’. Now what does that mean?


The NASTY crew producer <a href=" target="out">Marcus Nasty has an infamous reputation in grime. He got into funky in Napa and now DJs pure funky on Déjà vu. This summer he appears to be going to mostly to Malia, so Roll Deep members don’t have to worry about getting into fights with him and ending up in jail and no bail. The other former big grime DJ is Perempay Perempay, who was once Bossman from Essentials. His track with Dee, ‘In The Air’ is getting time from Choice and 1xtra. Look out in future for the fucking gorgeous ‘Time To Let Go’, with astonishing Minnie Ripperton challenging vocals by Clea Soul.


As well as bongos and letting go, be prepared for seduction by Kyla, who asks on ‘Do You Mind’ with a baby soft voice, if she can take you home and shag you all night. There are lots of other vocals about getting wet and flying jets. Meanwhile on NG’s ‘Tell Me’ Katy B conveys the sultry compulsion of a confusing sexual attraction. Geeneus ran a monthly night called Sex, before he went weekly with Incognito. There is also a funky DJ called – Marco Del Horno.


Circle, comprised of Kismet, Supa D, IC, Feva, and MCs Tippa and Gemini, do officially my favourite radio show of the moment. They play a lot of global house, with the tech-y Dennis Ferrer next to the sumptuous nu-jazz of Jazz-Tronik’s and Christian stuff like DJ Disciple. A well respected dubstep DJ is also known to have had his funky ‘moment’ to a Circle set. Circle have recently started a ‘Say No To Wonky’ campaign. Blackdown’s latest funky updates have noted the remarkable similarity to when in 2000 the UK Garage Council campaigned to veto the cocky little yout that was 2step. Meanwhile pretty much everyone who writes about funky at the moment can’t help talking about things going round in circles. And Kismet plays a lot of Peven Everett, who vocalled Roy Davis Jnr’s awesome ‘Gabriel’, a version by IC of which he Kis and Perempay have been playing a lot of, of late. ‘Gabriel’ is credited with kicking off the original UK garage movement. Full…

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