Clandestino: In search of Manu Chao (4 stars)

A carnival of photojournalism and trans-continental reportage which brings you closer to the World Music icon

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Clandestino: In search of Manu Chao

It is no marketing accident that Peter Culshaw’s book has all the look and feel of a Lonely Planet volume. A carnival of photojournalism and trans-continental reportage, Clandestino, in search of Manu Chao is an ambitious biography of an artist who both defines and challenges the most patronising of music categories, World Music.

Detractors of Culshaw’s work will point to the travelogue appearance and the abundant clichés, which evoke predictable Buena Vista Social Club-esque scenery. Such criticism would be myopic. Culshaw travelled the world shadowing the frenetic Chao and has produced a refined work that marks a disciplined and talented biographer.

Readers hoping for a dismantling of the protean persona, however, may be disappointed; Chao’s mystique remains intact and is perhaps enhanced. And yet, beneath any journalistic hyperbole is the rigour and enquiry of worthwhile research – this is New Historicism in real-time and to its own beat. An impossible task of balancing biographer’s neutrality and acolyte’s excitement has made for a fine story.

Ultimately, nuance is preferred to World Music generalisation as the reader takes to the road with Culshaw and Chao.

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