"Before the music industry, there were songs. And no one owned them. And after the music industry there will still be songs." - Manu Chao, The Times February 18, 2002
My enthusiasm for Manu's music (introduced to me via a second-generation tape of Clandestino a housemate loaned from a traveller friend) originally beat my research ethic when writing this node. Oops -- Manu Chao isn't a band, it's a person. Mr. Chao was the lead singer and songwriter of the French-Spanish band Mano Negra, now split from the band when it became clear that he wanted to do something more melodic and varied than punk.
Chao is a political activist - Mano Negra toured Latin America in the early 1990s, and later North Africa. The violence and oppression that he encountered inspired many of the songs on his first solo album, Clandestino. Chao describes himself as a musical journalist. Although there is a message (sung in english, french and/or spanish) in most of the songs, they are anything but heavy - in fact they're extremely engaging and listenable. Bongo Bong and Welcome to Tijuana are typical of the laid-back grooves on the record.
Manu Chao is, as of this writing, somewhere in Africa preparing a second album.
There's no way that Manu Chao can be labelled a sell out. True, his first album was picked up by a major label and sold 400,000 copies worldwide. But this was all the more surprising as word-of-mouth was the driving force behind its success - and proved a more effective marketing tool than the paltry sums that are generally spent on promoting 'world music'.