This Week On Alt.Latino: Special Guest Manu Chao

Manu Chao onstage in Cuba in 2009. i i

Manu Chao onstage in Cuba in 2009. STR/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Manu Chao onstage in Cuba in 2009.

Manu Chao onstage in Cuba in 2009.

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English / Spanish

I grew up in Buenos Aires, sandwiched between a soccer stadium and a rock venue. On most nights, my house rattled with musical vibrations like earthquakes. And when someone scored a goal in a soccer match, I would hear a wave of screams and my house shook as if it was going to collapse. As a small child, I'd watch the rock and soccer fans in endless fascination. They'd be jumping, waving flags and banners, singing at the top of their lungs. Often things would get ugly — soccer matches became fights and angry music fans once turned over a car in front of my house, then lit it on fire. I couldn't have known at the time that this was an omen of things to come.

Manu Chao was one of the first to make me understand the passion of music. I was watching TV and a commercial with the old Mano Negra song "Mala Vida" came on. I was mesmerized. It was raw, contagious and even though I was only a little girl, all I wanted to do was get in a mosh pit. I understood why all those crazy boys took their shirts off and sang in the middle of the streets, and I envied them. I was relegated to early bedtime, but as I listened to the excitement outside my window, I promised myself I'd be part of it someday.

Last weekend I was reminded of that passion when I saw Manu Chao in concert in New York City with a dozen friends. It will go down in my history as one of the best concerts I've ever been to. Like so many amazing performers, one of the joys of seeing a live Manu Chao concert is not just witnessing the artist himself, but also interacting with the crowd. It's a party of thousands of people from different walks of life, ethnicities and ages dancing, singing, having the time of their lives.

Manu Chao stopped by earlier this week to visit Alt.Latino and proved to be as lively a talker as he is a musician. He spoke to us about growing up in the Spanish exile community in France, the unlikely (but hilarious) way he became a lead singer, his start with the iconic band Mano Negra and his love for soccer. His song "Santa Maradona" is a perfect description of the energy of the sport — the booming broadcasters, the drums, the ambulance noises, the chants, the beautiful chaos.

He's also one of the most socially conscious artists out there today. Not since the protest music movement in Latin America and the U.S. in the 1960s has a musician had so much influence in calling attention to inequities and the need for social change with just a voice and a guitar.

And that aspect of his music also came in handy for me. That childhood world I lived in, in which I naively watched rock and soccer fans pass by my window, soon collapsed. I was a kid when Argentina's economy imploded, and that same energy became something quite different: people taking to the streets angrily, policemen harassing us, my parents terrified over not knowing when the next paycheck would come in, friends coming for dinner because their own parents couldn't put food on the table. And then came the difficult decision to leave my country for the U.S., where I got to know so many other people who'd been through far worse.

Throughout all that Manu Chao provided a soundtrack. Songs like "Clandestino" and "Sr. Matanza" are just two of my favorites, and are reflections of an artist who cares deeply about the world that surrounds him. In today's show, Manu speaks about his own experiences as an immigrant, his views on diaspora today and a musician's role in addressing social justice.

I've never cried at a concert, but last weekend in New York, when I heard all those people in the crowd chanting "Proxima Estación: Esperanza!" ("Next Stop: Hope!" the title of one of his records) I teared up. I looked into the crowd around me and saw my friends, each of whom represented a different story within the Latin American experience. Manu has done some great work, but I'd venture to say getting a crowd of such different people to sing in unison about hope is one of his finest achievements.

I hope you enjoy this show as much as I did.

This Week On Alt.Latino: Special Guest Manu Chao

Senor Matanza

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Señor Matanza

  • Artist: Mano Negra
  • Album: Casa Babylon

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Señor Matanza
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Casa Babylon
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Mano Negra
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EMI Music Distribution
Released
1994

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Me Gustas Tu

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Me Gustas Tu

  • Artist: Manu Chao
  • Album: Proxima Estacion: Esperanza

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Me Gustas Tu
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Proxima Estacion: Esperanza
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Manu Chao
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Rhino
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2001

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Drume Negrita

  • Artist: Bola De Nieve
  • Album: Bola De Nieve Con Su Piano

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Drume Negrita
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Bola De Nieve Con Su Piano
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Bola De Nieve
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Svetlana Novojilova Shulguina
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2011

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Mala Vida

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Mala Vida

  • Artist: Mano Negra
  • Album: Patchanka

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Mala Vida
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Virgin
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1992

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Santa Maradona

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Santa Maradona [Larchuma Football Club]

  • Artist: Mano Negra
  • Album: Casa Babylon

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Me Cago En El Amor

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Me Cago En El Amor

  • Artist: Tonino Carotone
  • Album: Ciao Mortali!

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Clandestino

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Clandestino

  • Artist: Manu Chao
  • Album: Radio Bemba Sound System

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Clandestino
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Radio Bemba Sound System
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Manu Chao
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Rhino
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2002

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En la noche

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En la noche

  • Artist: Amparanoia
  • Album: El Poder de Machín

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Raining Paradise

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Rainin' In Paradize

  • Artist: Manu Chao
  • Album: Baionarena [2 CD/1 DVD]

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Rainin' In Paradize
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Baionarena [2 CD/1 DVD]
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Manu Chao
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2009

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Revolution Rock

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Revolution Rock

  • Artist: Los Fabulosos Cadillacs
  • Album: 20 Éxitos Originales

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English / Spanish

Esta Semana En Alt.Latino: Invitado Especial Manu Chao

Crecí en Buenos Aires, entre un estadio de fútbol y un club de rock. La mayoría de las noches, mi casa temblaba con vibraciones musicales como pequeños terremotos. Y cuando había partido y alguien metía un gol, se escuchaba una ola de gritos y mi casa se mecía como si fuese a colapsar. De chiquita, miraba fascinada a los roqueros e hinchas de fútbol. Como saltaban, el orgullo con el que llevaban sus banderas, cantando a todo pulmón. Muchas veces las cosas se ponían feas—los partidos de fútbol terminaban en peleas y en una ocasión fans de música voltearon un auto en frente de mi casa y lo incendiaron. Lo que yo no sabia en ese entonces, es que eso era un augurio, de los tiempos difíciles que vendrían.

Manu Chao fue uno de los primeros artistas en hacerme comprender la pasión de la música. Estaba mirando la TV y apareció un comercial con "Mala Vida", la vieja canción de Mano Negra. Me encantó. Es una canción fuerte, contagiosa y aunque yo tan solo era una niña, lo único que quería hacer era meterme en la multitud de los conciertos y saltar y bailar. Entonces entendí porque esos chicos locos se sacaban las remeras y cantaban en plena calle, y los envidié. A mi me tocaba irme a la cama tempranito, pero mientras me hacía la dormida, escuchaba todo lo que estaba pasando en las calles, y me prometía a mi misma que algún día sería parte de esa fiesta.

El fin de semana pasado me acordé de esa pasión cuando vi a Manu Chao en concierto en Nueva York con un grupo de mis amigas. Sin duda fue uno de los mejores conciertos que he visto en mi vida. Como tantos grandes artistas, parte del placer de ver a Manu Chao en vivo no solo es verlo a el, sino también interactuar con la audiencia. Es una fiesta de miles de personas de distintos orígenes y edades, bailando, cantando, y pasándola bien.

Hace unos días Manu Chao pasó a visitar Alt.Latino, y nos habló acerca de su infancia en una comunidad de españoles exiliados en Francia; la extraña (pero muy graciosa) manera en la cual se convirtió en un cantante, sus comienzos con la legendaria banda Mano Negra y su amor por el fútbol. Su canción "Santa Maradona" es la perfecta descripción de la energía del deporte—los comentaristas de radio, el latido de los tambores, los ruidos de las ambulancias, los cantos, el hermoso caos.

Además, Manu es uno de los artistas con más consciencia social de hoy en día. Desde el movimiento de música contestataria en América Latina y los Estados Unidos en los años 60s no ha habido un músico tan importante en llamar a la atención las injusticias sociales y la necesidad de que las cosas cambien. Y lo hace con tan solo su voz y su guitarra.

Y ese es otro aspecto de la música de Manu Chao que me ha sido muy útil. Ese mundo de mi infancia, en el cual yo miraba a los roqueros y los hinchas de fútbol desde mi ventana, pronto colapsó. Yo era chiquita cuando se derrumbó la economía Argentina, y esa misma energía que yo habia observado ahora se convertía en algo muy distinto: las personas furiosas en la calle, la policía represora, mis padres aterrorizados sin saber de donde vendría su próximo pago, amigos que venían a cenar a casa porque sus propios padres no podían poner comida sobre la mesa. Y luego la difícil decisión de dejar mi país para venir a los Estados Unidos, donde pude conocer a tantas personas que han atravesado circunstancias mucho mas difíciles que la mia.

Manu Chao le dio una banda de sonido a todas esas experiencias. Canciones como "Clandestino" y "Sr. Matanza" son tan solo dos de mis favoritas, reflejos de un artista que siente profundamente lo que pasa en el mundo hoy. En nuestro show, Manu nos habla sobre sus propias experiencias como inmigrante, sobre las diásporas de hoy, y el papel que juega un músico en construir un mundo mejor.

Jamás he llorado en un concierto, pero el fin de semana pasado en Nueva York, cuando oí a toda esa gente cantando "Próxima Estación: Esperanza" me salieron las lágrimas. Miré la multitud y vi a mis amistades, cada una representando una historia distinta dentro de la experiencia latinoamericana. Manu ha creado canciones increíbles, pero yo diría que uno de sus grandes logros es poder unir a miles de personas tan distintas y hacer que canten sobre la esperanza.

Espero que disfruten del programa tanto como lo disfruté yo.

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