Manu Chao Records Album With Psychiatric Ward Patients

by Charley Rogulewski

While late Johnny Cash chose to record albums in prisons, Manu Chao is opting for a South American psychiatric ward for his latest recording. According to UK’s Guardian, the French-Spanish singer collaborated with patients at a mental hospital for his new solo album, ‘Viva La Colifata!’

Chao headed to Jose Borda, a psychiatric hospital in Buenos Aires, Argentina known for its Radio « La Colifata, » a radio station produced by the hospital’s patients. The station, which began in 1991, had been on Chao’s radar for the past decade after he reportedly read about it in a French newspaper. By hosting music workshops, Chao got to know the patients at the hospital eventually leading to the concept for his new album, as well as

a knack « to synthesise things with fewer words, clearer words. »

‘Viva La Colifata!’ (« La Colifata » is Spanish slang for lunatic) features 20 songs running the gamut of life, love, death, sunshine, loneliness, the Pope and the end of the world. Chao is offering the new album via Radiohead’s « pay what you want » approach at VivaLaColifata.org, a website launched by the singer and asylum. All proceeds go towards the mental hospital and it’s radio station, which already reaches some 12 million Argentinians.

« The process was very positive, not only because it tackled the social stigma of mental illness, » « La Colifata » station director Alfredo Olivera told the BBC, « but because it helped people leave the hospital and develop their own autonomy. [Chao] is not a psychologist or a psychiatrist but he knows how to listen to the rhythm of each person.«  Well, it certainly appears Chao has a fallback career if he ever gets tired of music.