Manu Chao (born José-Manuel Thomas Arthur Chao on June 21, 1961), is a French folk singer of Spanish origin (Basque and Galician). He sings in French, Spanish, English, Arabic, and Portuguese and occasionally in other languages. Chao was born in Paris, France, to Spanish parents. His mother, Felisa Ortega, is from Bilbao, and his father, writer and journalist Ramón Chao, is from Vilalba, Galicia. They emigrated to Paris to avoid Francisco Franco’s dictatorship —Manu’s grandfather had been sentenced to death. Shortly after Manu’s birth, the Chao family moved to the outlying suburbs of Paris, and Manu spent most of his childhood in Boulogne-Billancourt and Sèvres. As he grew up he was surrounded by many artists and intellectuals, most of whom were acquaintances of his father. Chao cites much of his childhood experience as inspiration for some songs. His music has many influences, as punk, rock, French chanson, Iberoamerican salsa, reggae, ska, and Algerian raï. These influences were obtained from immigrants in France, his Iberian connections, and foremost his travels in Mesoamerica as a nomad.
Many of Chao’s lyrics talk about immigration, love, living in ghettos and drugs, and often carry a left-wing message. This reflects Chao’s own political leanings —he is very close to the Zapatistas and its public spokesman, Subcomandante Marcos. His band Mano Negra is possibly a reference to an anarchist group. He has many followers among the European left and the anti-globalization movement.
Manu Chao has an impressive passion for what he does, wherever and whichever audience is in front of him.
Manu Chao has an incredible energy that is transferred for almost three hours from his heart to any soul in front of him.
Manu Chao is incredibly coherent. About the things he believes and the life he lives.
Manu Chao is a honest person. If he were a fake, he would be a “Cannes Palm D’or – best actor” winner. His is a proper music-therapy. The equivalent of a massive dose of antidepressant without side effects. Manu Chao is definitely not an agnostic figure but he is indeed diagnostic. At his concert, whatever you think of the music, if you find yourself standing still, staring at the people dancing around you and don’t feel the need of moving, dancing, jumping around, well my friend, it is time to worry.
Here is a clip of one of his lively performances