Created in 1986 from the leftovers of French rockband Hot Pants, Mano Negra basically consisted of lead singer Manu Chao, his trumpeting brother Tonio and cousin Santiago Casiriego on drums. The family were Spanish natives who fused the music styles rock, rap, flamenco and rai to create an exciting brew they named Patchanka, which originates from a Spanish sneering at dancehall music. Mano Negra's debut album, also titled Patchanka, appeared in 1988, scoring the hit Mala Vida.
The musicians got their group name from an Andalucian anarchist group. Like their equals Les Negresses Vertes, they were a Parisian posse influenced by any thinkable sound or rhythm. Patchanka’s success led to a contract with Virgin, which in 1989 issued the group's unsophisticated effort Puta's Fever, named after slang for a sexually-transmitted disease caught from a whore (puta in Spanish). It meant their breakthrough outside France, whereas they established themselves as France's most popular alternative act. The album resulted in their major hit King Kong Five.
Their 1991 King of Bongo attempted to extend Mano Negra’s international support by bringing in several English-language tracks. They also focused on South America when in 1992 they embarked on the Cargo Tour, cruising along various port cities to perform on a stage built into their ship's hold. Mano Negra returned to Latin America the subsequent year to travel by rail from Colombia's Caribbean coast to the capital Bogotá, giving free concerts at stations on the journey. Latin influences dominated 1994's Casa Babylon. Lead vocalist Manu Chao later rematerialized in Radio Bemba, and released his first solo album Clandestino in 1998.