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About Manu Chao
One day here, the other one there. From Barcelona to Buenos Aires. From Budapest to Brittany, Galicia, Rodez, Naples. From Australia to Italy via Chile, Brazil, Venezuela, Columbia. Manu Chao, it’s nothing new, never stops. He travels the world, plays in front of 500 people in small venues or 70 000 in big ones. However, since 2009 and his double live album “Baionarena”, news had been scarce. During a stopover in France and just before embarking on a trip to India he agreed to settle down and tell where he’s at while Because Music reissues all his albums.
So, what’s up ? A quick look at his official website indicates that concert dates follow on at the speed of light. However, for a few months, La Ventura has been running on instead of Radio Bemba: a smaller band, three members then four (Manu, Madjid, Philippe and Gambeat). “With Radio Bemba, we’re seven or eight on stage, it’s a big thing, says Manu. Nevertheless, with Madjid, we’re also used to play together in bars. Therefore, we simply added Philippe on drums. However, we were missing Gambeat, so we asked him to join us. With a small band, human relations are stronger. I never experienced such a team spirit before and I really enjoy it.” Going back on the road with this small group of people is a challenge for the singer. “I really need to escape from the daily routine. I can sum up my life like this: avoid this routine while keeping some physical and mental balance. In addition, I have to admit that playing in such a band is also a way of putting yourself at risk. The trio or quartet formula is the ultimate experience for a rock band. You just can’t hide and you have to give the best for at least two hours. In such a situation, we’re all naked, we give all we have. We’ve also worked hard on the vocals. As a musician, I felt it was a very healthy exercise.”
Very fit, overflowing with energy in real life and on stage, Manu is bouncy, reactive, always moving. But he also knows how to settle down, step back and display a keen sense of humour. “Playing in such a small band made us find out whether, after all this time, we were good musicians or not, says Manu with a smile. In all modesty, it’s only now that I consider myself a real musician. I also realised we have a great catalogue of songs! We’re not three or four on stage but 500, 5000 or 50 000. Everybody knows the songs wherever we play them.” Every time the band goes out, the same idea prevails: “We aim to create a popular event. That’s what these songs are made for.” Moreover, the musicians take as much pleasure as they give: “That’s the main goal.” And Manu knows how to reach this: “You have to keep it fresh. If you tour too much, for too much time, it becomes a routine and it’s not good.” Then again, this need of escaping the routine. And not enduring long winters, his only luxury.
Then, travelling is great for this: “It’s not only travelling for the sake of it. I travel to meet people. For a long time now, and maybe even more for the passed years, I’ve been listening to cultures. Wherever I go, I’m interested in what people listen to, in what they sing and eat, in how they live and party, in their joys and sorrows. ”
A globetrotting singer and sometime philosopher, Manu is truthful to his world citizen reputation : “I’ve got the feeling I’ve managed to build something with time, links and teams in different places of the world, from the Balkans to Argentina. Teams that are based upon work and friendship. Everybody’s giving as much as he can. I think it’s the true definition of a band. ” Well, and what about Radio Bemba then? “We’ll get back to it one day, but not today. ”
Today, La Ventura, tomorrow, maybe Radio Bemba. And what about a new album? “I’ve got loads of songs in my pocket, I’m always writing, but it’s too soon to talk about an album. For now, I don’t know where it’s going to take me. ” It only takes three clicks on the computer he’s always carrying to hear a few snippets of music. “There’s some very varied stuff here, like a Portuguese album for instance. And also an instrumental album I’m really fond of, just music and whistles. In addition, of course, there’s still this project of a rumba record.
The songs are ready, but for this one, I want to work the old-fashioned way, to record in a real studio. Well, that’s great because the three other musicians (Madjid, Philippe, Gambeat) love that.” Manu has been talking about this record for a long time, as if he needed to go back to his roots. And it’s not a coincidence. Because rumba is the music of Barcelona, where he lives and settles for a few months every year.
“The neighbourhood life is essential. I know I won’t be able to change the world, but I can change my neighbourhood. Acting locally is a great win. ” And the artist turns into an active and efficient neighbour as soon as he can. Giving guitar lessons to children is one of his many activities when he’s at home.
“The leading idea is transmission. It’s my responsibility, like every adult, whatever his job is, to pass on to young generations.” And help each other is the other priority: “My friends and I have planted a vegetable garden and we play football three times a week. The garden and football weld the neighbourhood. Then we meet at the bar, where we can talk and idealize. And we’re more efficient because we act together and we mean it. ”
Because Spain is in the middle of a serious crisis, Manu’s words and actions are even more vital: “ It’s important to have a neighbourhood life, and some friends you can rely on. Thanks to all this, all these little things that might look trivial, there’s some joy of life left.”