Manu Chao definitely is one of my favourite singers. For some reason I consider him also latino. Why? Maybe because he is a pure energy and so alternative 🙂
Manu Chao, born José-Manuel Thomas Arthur Chao on June 21, 1961) is a French singer of Spanish descent. He sings in French, Spanish, English, Italian, Galician, Arabic and Portuguese and occasionally in other languages. Chao began his musical career in Paris, busking and playing with groups such as Hot Pants and Los Carayos, which combined a variety of languages and musical styles. With friends and his brother Antoine Chao, he founded the band Mano Negra in 1987, achieving considerable success, particularly in Europe. He became a solo artist after its breakup in 1995, and since then tours regularly with his live band, Radio Bemba.
Manu Chao helped begin the Latin alternative movement way back in the ’80s — although it had no name then — and in his later work he cut a cross-cultural swath across styles and geographic boundaries.
Multilingual and decidedly multicultural, but with an edge heavily influenced by the punk rock of the Clash, Mano Negra seemed comfortably at home anywhere, be it North Africa or North America, in their music. Operating as a collective, without a manager, wasn’t the best way to guarantee international success, and their attempts to break the U.S. at the start of the ’90s didn’t work — America simply wasn’t ready for their musical ratatouille. However, Europe loved them, as did South America. In 1992 they began a seemingly odd tour of Latin America, traveling by boat with actors and a circus, playing in port cities on both the Atlantic and Pacific sides, aided and abetted by various political guerilla groups, which sometimes didn’t sit well with governments. In 1995, Chao moved the band to Spain, where he also formed another outfit, Radio Bemba Sound System, employing both musicians from Mano Negra and outside, which, according to rumors, caused rifts within the ranks, leading to the split of Mano Negra.
Chao then returned to South and Central America, spending the next few years drifting around with his guitar and a four-track, recording here and there. The resultant collection of songs was released in 1998 (1999 in the U.S.) under the title Clandestino and included a reworking of the Mano Negra track “King of Bongo,” which was picked up for use on the soundtrack to Madonna’s The Next Big Thing. The album itself took off very slowly, but after a year was going stronger than ever, a sleeper that found its niche in the burgeoning Latin alternative scene (even though its lyrics freely mixed English and French along with the Spanish). In 2000 Chao played a rare pair of shows in Los Angeles, and in June 2001 released Proxima Estacion: Esperanza, which showed that his musical self had been spending the last couple of years soaking up the sounds of the Caribbean.