A world of talent
Born in France, descended from Spanish ancestry, reared in Latin America and influenced by all manner of musical styles, Manu Chao calls himself a « citizen of the moment. »
His works reflect his polyglot past, with echoes of French chanson, Malian pop, Algerian rai, Caribbean reggae and compas, and of course, a full spectrum of Latin styles. « But I don’t identify with any one country, » said the vocalist-guitarist during a tour stop Monday in Austin, Texas. (He will perform tonight with his band, Radio Bemba Sound System, at the Aragon.) « I have dual passports. My son is from Brazil. And if I had a Mexican passport, it would be an honor.
« There’s really no part of the world where I don’t feel at home. I’m a lucky guy because of that. I’ve been able to travel everywhere of my music. I used to call myself a citizen of the world, but now I regard myself more as a citizen of the moment. Today I am in Austin, tomorrow it will be New Orleans. There are good vibrations wherever I go. »
He has been so busy traveling and touring that six years have flown by since his last studio disc, « Proxima Estacion: Esperanza, » which pushed him to the forefront of the Latin alternative scene. His next, « La Radiolina, » is due out in late August.
Six years can count as an eternity in the music business, but Chao did not intend to take a hiatus. « Since 2001, I had a book out in France with a CD containing 24 songs in French, then we released the live CD with Radio Bemba. I produced Amadou & Mariam [referring to the Malian duo, whose "Dimanche a Bamako" was widely lauded as the best world music disc of 2005]. And of course, a lot of touring around. »
The long and winding road brought him to Lollapalooza last summer in Grant Park, where he gained a whole legion of fans previously unfamiliar with his work. In April, he received more rave reviews at another primarily rock-oriented event, the Coachella Festival in Indio, Calif.
« All festivals are quite different but again are a bit the same, » he said. « At Lollapalooza, we were the last band of the night, so most of the crowd knew us. At Coachella, most of the audience was waiting for [the headliners] Rage Against the Machine. But they listened, and now in the last month, we have kids who come up to us and say, ‘We came because we saw you in California.’
« And the atmosphere is so different between the two festivals. The area around Coachella is more like a golf camp for rich people. It was OK, I had no problem, but I really liked Lollapalooza because it was downtown. I walked around and saw the fountain with the changing photos and all the little kids splashing around [referring to Crown Fountain, designed by Jaume Plensa, in Millennium Park]. I really loved the vibe there. »
Whether performing in American festivals or for Latin music fans, Chao regards himself as a universalist. « I don’t have a target audience, » he said. « I don’t want to think that way about my career. I’m not singing for these people or those people, I’m singing for everybody. If the rest don’t know my music, little by little they [absorb] it and then they become fans. »
Besides, he’s witnessed a whole audience evolution ever since he first started touring the United States in the early ’90s with his first band, Mano Negra (named after an Andalusian anarchist group).
« Back then, people didn’t know what to call our music, » he said. « We were punks, but not punks. We sang in Spanish, but not real Spanish. Now things have changed. Ever since we have gotten bigger and bigger in Latin and South America, our shows in the U.S. have become more than 70 percent Latino. Because I worked in Latin America and made my family there, there’s a bond. When I come here, Latin people feel the connection. »
When: 8 p.m. today
Where: Aragon, 1106 W. Lawrence
—————————————————-The Mix: Really cool things to do
June 15, 2007
With a new album, « Radiolina, » due in September, the French-Spanish singer-songwriter Manu Chao and Radio Bemba Sound System bring their multilingual, multicultural world-beat sound and left-wing political views to town for an 8 p.m. concert Sunday at the Aragon, 1106 W. Lawrence. Tickets, $30.
June 14, 2007
BY CENTERSTAGECHICAGO.COM STAFF Talk2us@centerstagechicago.com
Fests abound this weekend, but here’s what to do if you have a taste for something else.
Listen here, now
Sunday, 8 p.m., at the Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W. Lawrence.
As his classic « Me gustas tu » indicates, Manu Chao likes a little of everything. He’s a rock artist who does salsa, and a reggae and ska aficionado who moonlights with Algerian rai. Most of all, he’s an enchanting performer–just ask anyone who was at Lollapalooza last year.