Sunday, March 22, 2009

March 22: Manu Chao, "Clandestino"

Artist: Manu Chao
Album: Clandestino
Year: 1998
Label: Virgin

Singing in three different languages is something almost never heard on a single record, let alone on a single song. Combining sounds and styles from France, Spain, Portugal, and a host of other countries, Manu Chao is one of the most dynamic musicians today. A true cultural melting pot, Manu Chao has been making some of the most beautifully unique music on the planet for more than a decade. Truly, he has never made a record short of stellar, but his 1998 release, Clandestino is perhaps his finest album to date.

One of the most noticeable aspects to Manu Chao’s records is the fact that nearly every song flows seamlessly into the next. The transitions are so fluid that many times, you aren’t even aware that the song has changed. While on many albums, this gives the feeling that the album has no diversity, on Clandestino, it simply serves to keep the mood steady and grooving throughout. The record is also diverse in that it is perfect for really any situation. The songs are so solid that they work as background music for a meal as well as they work for getting a party started. The sounds and vibes are absolutely infectious and the more you listen to Clandestino, the more you come to realize the genius of Manu Chao.

The music of Manu Chao is a reflection of his own diverse heritage. The heavy overall Latin influence is combined with reggae, blues, electronica, and even a bit of hip-hop. From simple guitar and vocal tracks, to full orchestrations with dazzling horn sections, Clandestino is pure enjoyment. The number of instruments on each song helps to create a gorgeous sonic experience and listeners can’t help but smile throughout the entire record. The one thing that runs constant throughout Clandestino (as well as all of Manu’s records) is the overall upbeat tone to the music.

Manu’s vocal work is just as vibrant and engaging as the instrumentation on Clandestino. Even if you don’t speak any of the three languages he sings in, it is clear in his tone that, even if the lyrics are somber, the mood is one of moving on from bad times. Many songs are so catchy that you will find yourself singing along in no time. (it is a great way to learn a new language!). Manu's vocal style is equally as diverse as the subject matter and languages in which he sings. From smooth, relaxing singing, to all out crowd call and response, to rapping and everything in between, Manu Chao truly has no vocal limitations.

The term "world music" is somewhat inaccurate as it is usually referring to a group that plays a single brand of "local sounding" music. Pulling various aspects his own diverse cultural upbringing, Manu Chao truly makes "world music." The sound is like nothing else you'll ever hear, and it is a pleasure to listen to time and time again. Each of one his albums are nothing short of superb and the light, carefree feeling that runs throughout all of his records make them somewhat addictive. Manu Chao's 1998 release, Clandestino is a party for anyone in earshot and those who haven't should do their best to get themselves a copy as soon as possible!

Standout tracks: “Bong Bong,” “Lagrimas De Oro,” and “Luna Y Sol.”

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