Manu Chao might just about be a household name in the UK, thanks in the main to 2001’s ubiquitous Próxima Estación: Esperanza, but he has not conquered the hearts and minds of Brits to the same degree as listeners in Europe and Latin America. This should come as little surprise. It is the traditional music of these areas that form the basis of his multilingual, mantra-led, ghetto music collage – we of the Queen’s English have only a limited enthusiasm for foreign tongues and that ‘world’ feel in our pop music.
But Chao hasn’t given up on us yet, and is bringing his brand new album and supporting outfit Radio Bemba Sound System to the Glasgow Academy this fortnight. Now in his mid-40s, the Manu has maintained something of a Peter Pan image through the exuberance of his highly politicised rock and reggae-tinted Latin street music, first as part of the alt. Parisian family band Mano Negra then leading his Radio Bemba troubadours through South and Central America, resulting in the albums Clandestin and later Esperanza.
After a break of six years, during which Chao has pursued side projects such as taking production duties on Malian duo Amadou & Miriam’s Dimanche à Bamako and the soundtrack for a forthcoming Maradonna documentary, La Radiolina has shot to the top of many a European chart despite exhibiting less of the fun-filled personality and ear-pricking idiosyncrasies of earlier outings; favouring energetic, layered guitars over lilting Caribbean rhythms and quirky, found sounds. Nevertheless, with universal hits such as ‘Bongo Bong’ and ‘La Primavera’ Manu Chao might be considered the original Basement Jaxx of world music and is not to be missed live. (Mark Edmundson)
Glasgow Academy, Glasgow, Wed 10 Oct