A 'Brazilian James Brown' In the Land of Samba Music

Gerson King Combo was a dancing hurricane who foreshadowed the rap aesthetics in Brazil. He marked the Brazilian soul-funk movement with songs on black pride and self-love.

Brazilian funk is resonating louder. But while the world associates the hypnotic beats from Rio's outskirts with a rather contemporary scene, represented by artists like Rennan da Penha, Heavy Baile, and the internationally famous Anitta, the term "Brazilian funk" was certainly not born these days.

The Brazilian soul-funk roots date back to the early 1970s, when Motown and Atlantic Records struck the hearts and minds of a cosmopolitan black youth from Rio's outskirts. Galvanized by black artists, DJs, and producers who went crazy with James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone, and Marvin Gaye—to mention a few—the Brazilian soul-funk dove deep into the essence of black America's music culture. Among the several artists who arose with the Brazilian soul-funk, a few stood out for bridging that new musical groove with explosive political messages—sometimes without even realizing it. And no one did it so well like Gerson King Combo.

A black dancer and choreographer who turned into a singer and composer, Combo marked the history of Brazil's black music in many ways. Owner of James-Brown-like moves, he set fire on the stages of "Black Rio," a movement that promoted the black music culture in Rio de Janeiro, in which he actively participated. Known as the "King of the Brazilian Soul," he also foreshadowed the rap aesthetics when Brazilian hip-hop didn't even exist.

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