Video: Manu Chao with The French Lovers in Colombia during The Train of Ice and Fire tour.
Route were delighted to discover that Peter Culshaw’s new biography, Clandestino – In Search of Manu Chao, is finally released. It’s the first substantial English language biography of Manu Chao.
The first half of the book is a traditional biography, chronologically outling Manu’s career, from the early days as a rocker in the outskirts of Paris, through the emergence of Mano Negra, the subsequent fallout and Manu’s development as an artist in his own right. We were pleased to see Manu’s father, Ramón Chao, featured throughout, always ready with his pearls of wisdon, and the book provides wonderful context for Ramón’s book The Train of Ice and Fire, which follows Manu on a mad adventure through Colombia in the dog days of Mano Negra.
The second half the book is a travelogue; where Peter Culshaw embeds himself in Manu’s caravan, and we follow them from Barcelona, New York, Argentina, the Algerian Sahara, Mexico, Paris, Brixton and Brazil.
Mano is presented very much as a neighbourhood guy, and throughout the book we see glimpses of his connections to neighbourhoods all across the globe. Much of Mano’s mission is told through the people and organisations he associates with. One such organisation is the Zapatistas of Chiapas, Mexico, with their charismatic spokesman, Subcommandante Marcos. ‘The Zapatistas were the first ones I came across who really explained the politics of globalisation to me, before the French intellectuals,’ says Manu. ‘And that the economy rules the world and politicians mean nothing. The Zapatistas have a good analysis of what modern society is and how it works. We felt very involved with them. The messages were the exact same things I was thinking, and there aren’t many examples of messages like that coming at you in the world. Also, they never said they were fighting for power, nor wanting to be President. They want dignity.’
Peter Culshaw was described by his friend Malcolm McLaren as ‘the Indiana Jones of world music’. His assignments have included hanging out with Central African pygmies and reports from the Amazon and Siberia. He has profiled many leading classical, world and jazz musicians for the Observer and Telegraph, as well as BBC radio. As a musician, he was signed in the 1980s to Brian Eno’s label and later recorded with the Buena Vista Social Club. He is currently music editor for theartsdesk.com.