Zuzuka Poderosa: Baile Funk's Bunda Matriarch

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In the beginning there was a Bronx dude called Afrika Bambaataa looking for the perfect beat. He found it and they called it electro. From the Bronx it traveled to Miami, where they called it bass, and from there, to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, where for some odd reason, they called it funk.

Baile funk (sometimes also called funk carioca) started off as simple Miami bass translated to Portuguese. But long after the genre lost popularity in the US, it was kept alive in the famously dangerous dance scene of Brazilian shanty towns where it evolved into its own style. What was a genuine local phenomenon crossed over to worldwide notoriety when first-world DJs and producers (M.I.A. and Diplo to name a few) “discovered” and imported it to the dance floors of London and New York.

Hailing from Brooklyn, NY, we found Zuzuka Poderosa, one of a handful of Brazilians living abroad who became international ambassadors of baile funk. Zuzuka was born in Victoria but lived much of her youth in Rio de Janeiro before emigrating and ending up in New York 10 years ago. She started as a DJ but was soon coerced by friends and colleagues to get on the mic and spit some sexy rhymes.


We all know what Poderosa means, but what’s Zuzuka?

Actually it was just out of the blue. I was just going to the studio to do something with Kassiano and Sujinho from Nossa and Kassiano said what happen if you make it, you need a name, right? I’ve never thought about it but immediately, in that second that name Zuzuka Poderosa came to my mind out of nowhere. It doesn’t mean anything, it’s just random.

And you really have super powers?

Yes, I have super powers. You’ll see it when I perform.

How did you get exposed to baile funk for the first time?

When I was 9 or 10 or something, they use to have parties there, and I used to ask my brother to take me to go see because I really like to dance to that kind of music.

Have you ever been to funky parties in Rio’s favelas?

I’ve been to Cidade de Deus (City of God). But I haven’t been to that many.

Is it really that dangerous?

Yes. It is dangerous.

So if me, a skinny white boy, goes there…they’ll kidnap me, right?

Not necessarily. But I’d recommend you go with someone who knows because they probably won’t let you in unless you’re with someone.

Baile funk lyrics are usually very sexually explicit, are yours too?

Yes. Let’s say double meaning. It’s for you to figure it out. I don’t want to get super explicit, like I’m gonna open your legs and I’m gonna stick it in. I don’t wanna say that.

So you can still show them to your mom.

My mom is cool, she’d support me whatever I do.

I’m not saying yours, but some baile funk songs are almost pornographically explicit.

It’s the same with dancehall and reggaeton, you know. Hip-hop too. Baile funks [have] very sexual-oriented lyrics, but there are other things, too. We also have romantic baile funk!

How important is it to have a big bunda (butt) to be a female baile funk performer?

Well, I’m half Asian so… you know…but it’s true, Brazilians are infatuated with bunda.

There are hundreds of baile funk songs that talk about that specific body part.

But baile funk talks about other parts of the body besides bunda. Girls talk about guys parts, too. Gaiola Das Popozudas, for example, they rip the guys apart with their lyrics. Amazing! It’s just a Brazilian thing.

A friend of mine says he can tell if a woman is from Brazil by the shape of her bunda, do you think this is scientifically accurate?

You know what? Sometimes I think about that! I think about the Portuguese and African combination, that’s what happens. Maybe we should do a little experiment and figure it out. He might be right, because there’s that genetic thing that gives the Brazilians a different touch. But I’m not gonna say yes or no.

Most baile funk songs are very up there on the tempo, how do you keep up at that speed for a whole show? Do you take lots of guaraná before going on stage?

Sometimes I drink tequila, sometimes I drink water. I try to do water most of the time. Guaraná is fattening, it has a lot of sugar. The guaraná powder is amazing though. I don’t really realize how much energy I put on my shows until I’m done and I’m dead. It’s like running a marathon for 45 minutes. I literally almost pass out after the show.

You know, I always wondered about this one thing and I was waiting to run into a Brazilian woman to ask her. Is Brazilian waxing really a Brazilian thing or do they just call it that? Was it in fact invented in Brazil?

(Laughs) I guess. I guess so. If they say Brazilians invented the Brazilian wax, I think so. Brazilians are very into beauty products. Brazilian women always have to look good, like 24 hours, it’s a very hard competition. I wouldn’t doubt it if we were the first ones to take everything off.



11/12 – Sol Collective – Sacramento, CA
11/13 – Elbo Room {Tormenta Tropical} – San Francisco, CA
11/14 – Pagoda {Fairmont Hotel} w/ Mextape – San Jose, CA
11/15 – Bardot {School Night} – Los Angeles, CA

Party photos by Javier Romero.