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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

The term, Baile Funk may sound like a strange disease, but it's not. It's just a really good way to get out on the dance floor. Baile Funk is a genre of music with roots in the streets of Brazil; a mixture of crude rapping with big electronic club beats.

(Soundbite of song "Gulang" by MIA)

BRAND: That's the song, Gulang, by the artist, MIA. It's given baile funk a big boost through its radio airplay and it's even featured in a new TV ad for Honda. Now baile funk has a new singer getting attention. Her name is Yuko Takabitaka(ph), but her fans know her as Tigarah. And as NPR's Rob Sachs reports, Tigarah has a similar style to MIA but there is one difference: Tigarah sings in Japanese.

(Soundbite of Tigarah singing)

ROB SACHS reporting:

For rapper Tigarah, music is about breaking boundaries.

TIGARAH (Singer): In Japan, hip-hop is very popular, but my style is more like baile funk which is from Brazil. People in Japan and people say, like, they never heard of this kind of music though.

I grew up in Tokyo and my parents did love Michael Jackson and I also love Michael Jackson when I was a kid. But most times I'm interested in any kind of international thing. Like so I listen to like hip-hop, rock, and every kind of music. But when I found baile funk, I had so big shock and it's like, oh, what kind of music is that. You know, I never heard of this like a beat and line.

SACHS: Tigarah became hooked on baile funk.

(Soundbite of Tigarah singing)

SACHS: Wanting to learn more in 2000, she traveled in Brazil and began hanging out in clubs where baile funk was being played. It was during that trip, she met up with a Swedish DJ named Mr. D, who is also interested in Brazilian music. He started making beats, she provided the rhymes, a musical experiment she wasn't sure would pay off.

TIGARAH: At first I thought, people have no interest in because I'm speaking Japanese, but like it sounds really unique and there was different beat and everything, and so it's like people are very interested. They don't even understand what I'm talking about, but during the show they look at me really smiling and it's like, oh wow, this is new, you know.

(Soundbite of Tigarah singing)

SACHS: What she's talking about actually has some weight to it. A former political science major at Tokyo's Keio University, Tigarah's rhymes sometimes mix in simple English with Japanese, discuss things like capitalism and globalization, like in this song, Money.

(Soundbite of song "Money" by Tigarah)

TIGARAH: (Singing) All you think is about money. All you think is about money.

I believe like music is the escape from the complicated life and everything. And I would like to people feel the music and with positive energy.

SACHS: These days Tigarah's still on the hunt for a record deal so for now, the best way to catch her is to go out and see her live.

Rob Sachs, NPR News, Las Angeles.

(Soundbite of Tigarah singing)

BRAND: Well, if you can't catch her live, you can go to our website, npr.org, and hear some of Tigarah's music there.

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