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Bio

A musical globalista with a rebel rock'n'roll heart, there's nobody quite like Manu Chao. 
An inspiration to the world's downtrodden and dispossessed and a huge star in Latin America where he can draw audiences of 100,000 people, Chao's first solo album, 1998's 'Clandestino', sold three million copies. 
In Britain he has long enjoyed an enthusiastic cult following, particularly among world music aficionados. But 'La Radiolina', his first full studio album in six years, seems certain to expand that fan base dramatically, for as the UK's Uncut magazine noted in a five star review, it's "not so much a world music record as a global-rock mission statement."

   

 


'La Radiolina' finds all Chao's maverick trademarks present in abundance - the Latin melodies and world rhythms, the surreal samples and sense of fun, the street-punk sloganising and the unerring pop sensibility, which led Robbie Williams to cover Clandestino's 'Bongo Bong'. Yet 'La Radiolina' also presents a more expansive sound from Chao than we've heard before with the guitars and rock beats very much to the fore. 
Recorded in Barcelona, where he and his band Radio Bemba live, it's all the most diverse record Chao has recorded to date, from the galloping rockabilly-blues of '13 Días' through the frenetic urgency of 'Panik Panik' to the catchy, grown-up pop of 'Bleedin' Clown' and the lovely ballad 'La Vida Tómbola', dedicated to Diego Maradona and written for a film about the footballer currently being made by Emir Kusturiça. The radical politics at the core of Chao's creative philosophy are also out in force on songs such as 'Politik Kills', 'Tristeza Maleza' and the charged-up single 'Rainin' in Paradize', which finds him rhyming 'democracy' with 'atrocity'. 
As with 'Clandestino' and its 2001 follow-up 'Próxima Estación: Esperanza', 'La Radiolina' was created layer-by-layer by Chao on his laptop. "When I open my computer to record a new song I have an idea but, the result usually comes out totally different. If we come up with something that I didn't expect that's what I call a good session," he says. Parts of the album were mixed by Mario Caldato (Beastie Boys/Beck), although Chao continued to remix the tracks after their collaboration. 
"With a computer you never stop remixing. I only stopped now because I wanted to get the record out and do others things," he says. 
'La Radiolina' comes exactly 20 years after Chao first came to prominence with Mano Negra. Born in Paris in 1961 into a Galician family that had fled Spain to escape Franco's fascist regime, Chao grew up in a multi-cultural community populated by immigrants from north and West Africa. 
In the '70s he discovered the UK rock scene and was inspired first by Dr Feelgood and then the Clash. After the short-lived band Hot Pants, in 1987 he formed Mano Negra, combining a punk rock aesthetic with influences drawn from reggae, Chao's own Latin roots and the multi-cultural milieu in which he grew up. A deal with Virgin followed but after several acclaimed albums the band split following a legendary tour of war-torn Colombia in 1993. After buying an old train, Chao and his colleagues spent six weeks travelling across the country via a disused rail track, stopping at villages along the route to play impromptu concerts for audiences of peasants, guerrillas and drug traffickers. By the time they reached the capital Bogotá, it was literally the end of the line: only Chao and one other member of the band were left. 
By his own account, Chao fell into a deep depression. He took a couple of years off, to travel the world and in the process recorded his solo debut, 'Clandestino', using a portable tape machine that he carried in his backpack. Released in 1998, it became a worldwide leftfield hit, although Virgin initially refused to release it in the UK and Chris Blackwell snapped it up for his Palm Pictures label, claiming that he saw in Chao many of the qualities that had persuaded him sign Bob Marley almost a quarter of a century earlier. The equally genre-bending 'Próxima Estación: Esperanza' followed in 2001 and now finally comes the third installment, 'La Radiolina'. 
Not that Chao has exactly been idle over the last six years. The 2002 live album 'Radio Bemba Sound System' was followed in 2004 by 'Sibérie M'était Contéee', a limited-edition book/CD created in partnership with illustrator Jacek Wozniak which appeared only in France. 
Chao also produced the West African duo Amadou and Mariam's widely feted 'Dimanche á Bamako' and 'Ma Yela', an album for the Algerian Berber artist Akli D - and spent time hanging out with 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. I remember meeting him at a festival in Japan. He had his campfire and it was six in the morning and he was still playing his little mix tapes to keep the party going. I looked at him and thought 'I want to be like that'." 
The respect was mutual and the records Strummer made towards the end of his life with the Mescaleros were in turn deeply influenced by Chao. "Joe absolutely adored Manu's music," confirms Strummer's widow, Lucinda. "They were very good friends." 
Earlier this summer Chao road-tested his new material on his first full tour of America. With the stage draped in a banner declaring 'Immigrants are not criminals', he won over audiences everywhere, including 90,000 fans at Coachella impatiently waiting to see Rage Against The Machine. "You cannot fight terrorism with terrorism, you should fight violence with education,' he told them - and received rapturous applause. "Everywhere we went in America people seemed to agree with my criticisms of their government," he says. "So I remain full of hope. When I was young we believed we could change the world. Now it's much more difficult for kids to have hope. But everybody around the planet knows that the shit has hit the fan. It's just a matter of time before people are going to wake up and demand change." 
When not performing at huge festivals like Coachella, you'll find Chao playing for free every night in his neighbourhood bar in Barcelona. But, wherever you catch him, the message is the same: the best way not to let the bastards grind you down is to enjoy the party. It's a sentiment that Joe Strummer would have surely understood. 
Nigel Kennedy - July 2007

 

   

PHOTOS

Manu Chao
Manu Chao
Manu Chao
Manu Chao
Manu Chao
Manu Chao
Manu Chao
Manu Chao
Manu Chao
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VIDEOS

Me llaman calle
La vida tombola
Politik Kills
Infinita Tristeza (Live)
Rainin In Paradize (Emir Kusturica)
Next videos Previous videos

NEWS

more news...

Manu Chao - L'Hiver Est La live

Manu Chao - L'Hiver Est La live

Manu Chao - L'Hiver Est La (Live at Brussels Summer Festival)

Manu Chao in Marquette-Lez-Lille

Manu Chao in Marquette-Lez-Lille

Change of location for Manu Chao's gig in Marquette-Lez-Lille !

Manu Chao la Ventura Europa 2012

Manu Chao la Ventura Europa 2012

Catch Manu Chao on tour in Europe this summer !

Manu Chao x Tokyo Ska Paradise

Manu Chao x Tokyo Ska Paradise

New Manu Chao track with Tokyo Ska Paradise "Let Me Come The River Flow" on Tokyo Ska Paradise's new album

"Manu & Chao" is available!

"Manu & Chao" is available!

The book "Manu & Chao...il y'a la mer la-bas au loin" by Wozniak is now available!

"Manu & Chao"

"Manu & Chao"

« Manu & Chao » a book by Wozniak out on February 23rd of 2012

Manu Chao - Argentina 2011

Manu Chao - Argentina 2011

Manu Chao on tour in Argentina in November 2011 !