29/06/07

Philadelphia Inquirer, D.A. Amorosi

Many styles, one message

Internationally popular Manu Chao comes to town.

By A.D. Amorosi

For The Inquirer
Manu Chao sings about immigration, and other socio-political issues. He embraces styles from salsa to punk and sings in several languages.

Manu Chao sings about immigration, and other socio-political issues. He embraces styles from salsa to punk and sings in several languages.


Manu Chao is making friends wherever he goes this spring – in New Orleans and at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Tennessee where we found him before a performance this month.

« People are liking us, » says Chao. The French-Spanish singer’s musical mix of salsa, reggae, punk and raï make him an international favorite.

Chao’s left-leaning lyrics regarding ghetto life, love during wartime, and immigration struggles only further his popularity. His rough hewn voice and vibrant rock ‘n’ raï go nicely with socio-political texts. It makes the medicine of new songs like his apocalyptic « Rainin’ in Paradize » go down sweeter.

Ask Chao if politics is ever a dirty word and he laughs heartily. « Only when practiced by professional politicians, » says Chao. « Politics means corruption. That’s a problem all over the planet. It makes people mad. »

Writing it down, as he has since gleaning the power of the pen from his father – journalist Ramón Chao – helps this musician channel his ire. He wishes more of the youth he attracts would funnel their disgust into something positive. « Too many people – kids in particular – have too much anger. »

Though we chat about immigration laws and years of colonialism (« countries can’t afford to keep their people; if you want to solve the problem of immigration, give countries their own economies, their own factories ») Chao insists his rollicking La Radiolina due in September will be bigger and brighter than « Paradize’s » dark charge.

« My little radio [Radiolina's English translation] is much different than « Rainin’, » says Chao about songs sung in French, Italian, Spanish and English. « It’ll be a fruit salad in comparison. »