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Connector of the Day: Manu Chao

October 21st, 2009
02:44 PM ET

Manu Chao, born in Paris in 1961 into a Galician family that had fled Spain's fascist regime, has long enjoyed a cult following in Britain. His new album is called "Baioarena" and is out now.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/10/21/art.chao.jpg caption="Chao won over many new fans when he road-tested his new material in America this summer."]

Chao came to prominence with Mano Negra. After several acclaimed albums the band split following a tour of war-torn Colombia in 1993. After buying an old train, Chao and his colleagues spent six weeks traveling via a disused rail track, stopping at villages to play concerts for audiences of peasants, guerrillas and drug traffickers.

Chao later worked with former Clash singer Joe Strummer, with whom he formed a strong bond. "He's the only hero I ever met who wasn't a disappointment," Chao says. "He was a great teacher for me - like an uncle."

Manu Chao sings in many languages - French, Spanish, Portuguese, English and Arabic, often mixing several languages in the same song. His music has as many influences as he does languages - blending punk, rock, latin, ska, salsa - giving his songs the taste of the truly global.

Many of Chao's lyrics talk about immigration, love, living in ghettos and drugs - and often carry a left-wing message.

One of his latest projects has been to perform and record in a mental health hospital in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The resulting album, "Colifita" - slang for "lunatic" - is a collaboration with psychiatric patients who run an Argentinian radio station called Radio Loony. Featuring 20 songs about life, love, loneliness, death, sunshine, mothers and the end of the world, it mixes some old Chao tunes with mostly new material from the singer and patients, including poetry and improvizations. The idea, according to the publicity blurb, is to "laugh, cry and meditate about life."

Download the Colifata album for free at www.vivalacolifata.org

Find out more about Chao's new album, Baionarena, at www.manuchao.net

soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Tony Salieri

    The Anglo world is some two decades in discovering the most transcendental and influential artist to come, not from the Latin culture, but from all of Europe, apart from the United Kingdom. That he is free from everything that killed Michael Jackson should be better appreciated, but I guess you can't have both Britney/Kanye/Rihanna, that Brown coward, and a decent, fertile artist like him...

    October 22, 2009 at 2:12 am | Reply
  2. Inti Raymi

    Is Manu making a show in Roskilde , Denmark???

    All the Latinos are waiting for them up here in Scandinavia..SEnd them a big hug from Ayamara indian from Bolivia.
    viva la Pacha Mama.

    October 22, 2009 at 11:02 am | Reply
  3. Taib

    Hello Manu
    Any plan for a concert in Morocco?
    Thanks a lot

    October 22, 2009 at 12:31 pm | Reply
  4. Rafael Aparicio

    Hey Manu. I wanted to know why you left Colombia out of your most recent tour, since I know you even have a Colombian son and you love Colombia. Is it for political reasons?

    October 22, 2009 at 12:55 pm | Reply
  5. Sanyog Yadav

    A Parisian friend of mine introduced me to your music, and since then I love your music. It's so pied..so ecstatic. Anyway, when are you coming to amsterdam for a concert?? Plz come here soon..

    Thanks a lot..

    October 22, 2009 at 1:04 pm | Reply
  6. Kim Jarvis

    I am a fluent French speaker and have lived in Nice for about 8 years now, so I learned about your band, your projects and your purpose whilst living here. Mixing languages in song is ingenious and it's probably one of the things I truly appreciate about Manu Chao as so few bands do it.
    Mi Vida is by far one of your best. Can you tell me what inspired you to write that song?

    October 22, 2009 at 1:37 pm | Reply
  7. Nascimento

    Hy Manu. Have you ever been in Brazil? if the answer is not, would you like to come to Brazil to see beautiful girls?

    October 22, 2009 at 1:39 pm | Reply
  8. Alejo Conejo

    Hey Manu!! I am your big fan, I know about almost all your music and your lyrics, we love you here in Colombia... Well, despite that you're one of the most prolific singers around the world your music don't recieve many attention of the media and your songs, even here, are not easy to listen in the radio, in some cases you are something like a sort of cult musician, How is your opinion about the globalized world that yet left out at the little communities of artist or simple people that not share the media criteria? and What do you think about the global media, are they doing his part in the task to connect the people in the conscience of what is be a human being?

    October 22, 2009 at 1:58 pm | Reply
  9. Justus

    I really like your songs, but whas disappointed when you expressed your support for Chavez. You should either move to Venezuela to understand what really is going on there, or consider better choosing your friends.

    October 22, 2009 at 2:33 pm | Reply
  10. Kate

    Hello Manu

    One of your most well-known songs is "Clandestino" which deals with the issue of immigration. In your songs it's as if you really put yourself in other people's shoes. Why do you think you have this empathy with the down-trodden, where does it come from? And how do you stay upbeat when dealing with such serious issues?

    Keep up the great work, and when's your next album coming out?


    October 22, 2009 at 3:18 pm | Reply
  11. Patrick Cunniff

    Some of your music seems focused on how it is to be an illegal immigrant in the US. Why not more music about some of the travesties and injustice that are going on right here in Europe and France. When France change Birthright for citizenship, thought we might hear something from you, but did not. Can you explain? Are your concerns about righting injustice or just those injustices in the States.

    October 22, 2009 at 3:27 pm | Reply
  12. Ray Flores

    Hey Manu,
    Saludos from Tijuana!!! "Tequila, s.. y m..."
    We love your music and we hope you return very soon to visit Mexico again!

    As you know we are living in a very violent place, we can compare this to Iraq as you will see soldiers and cops in the streets battling with the drug cartels, and many cops and inocent people dying everyday, and it seems we are losing this war.

    When are you going to write for us a song against the use of drugs?
    Against the corruption and the dead cops?
    Against the kidnapings?
    We need a leader like you to open our minds for a real change, with music not with bullets; we don't want another war (1810, 1910, 2010 is coming).

    Gracias por tu musica hermano! and Welcome to Tijuana!!!!

    October 22, 2009 at 8:47 pm | Reply
  13. Nick St Clair

    Dear Manu,
    How do you feel about Spain's plans to curtail the principle of universal jurisdiction?
    Do you believe that Spain has the right to judge anyone, anywhere in the world – if, (from its own perspective), their crimes are judged to be serious enough. (As was the case for Adolfo Scilingo, although less successfully with Augusto Pinochet.)
    I ask this question particularly in light of Spain's continuing reticence to investigate its own "crimes against humanity" carried out during the civil war and the subsequent Franco era.
    Hasta la victoria siempre.
    Nick St Clair

    October 22, 2009 at 9:13 pm | Reply

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