Music September 28, 2007 By John Dickie

     In 2001, Manu released Proxima Estación: Esperanza, almost a continuation of the journey begun in Clandestino. Many of the sounds and rhythms from the first album are repeated in the second, something many people have criticized. “They’re like flashbacks,” he explains. “If the phrase works for me, if it helps explain what I want to say, I use it.
     I have my toys, and until I get bored playing with them, I’ll keep using them.” It’s as much a musical idea as a way of life. “Siglo 21: Reciclaje o muerte,” he poignantly states. (21st Century: Recycle or Die). “I’ve never been taken in by consumerism. You know, la dictadura de lo nuevo” (The Dictatorship of the New). He continues, in English: “Everything must be new, new, new, original. If you don’t have the new, you’re nobody.” Then, in Spanish, “It’s terrible. If your son doesn’t have the new shoes when he gets to school, he’s not worth shit. I don’t change my shoes until they are completely worn out. Because they’re part of me; I cherish them, I talk to them. And it’s the same with music.”
     In September, Manu releases eighteen new songs under the title La Radiolina. The new album reflects the high-energy style of the Radio Bemba live experience, and is more ska- and rock-oriented than Manu’s previous solo expeditions. Naturally, many of the Chao motifs and signatures, recycled and regenerated, are present on the new album. (Anyone looking for a radical departure should seek out his 2004 oeuvre Sibérie m’était contéee [sic.], an acoustic book-album of his poetry, sung entirely in French and in collaboration with polish illustrator Wozniak.) “On the new album, there is a song called Politic Kills”, he says, “which I originally recorded in ‘95-‘96. And Bleeding Clown I wrote eighteen years ago. I also recorded a song just now, on the tour bus in Portland, that came out nice. It’ll probably go in the album.”
     As twilight falls over Brooklyn at the end of the show, the band returns to the stage for an encore. Manu takes a perch behind the congos, while percussionist Phillipe steps up and launches into a song in Arabic. “With love from the Middle East!” Manu cries out repeatedly, his head bobbing above the congos, arms stretched out, palms turned upward. He later explains: “It’s called Sidi H’ Bibi. It’s a love song from the Middle East. It means, ‘My man, my love’. It’s both a Jewish and an Arab custom for women to sing this song at weddings.” Then, pausing: “You see? Deep down, it’s the same culture.”
     The next day is a rest day for the band, and Manu Chao will do what he always does when he gets a day off: “Soy caminante (I’m a walker). I’ll go for a stroll around the streets of New York. I love this city. It’s a great place for walking, meeting people.” Somewhere around Manhattan, or somewhere else, not too far away, perhaps in Lima or Katmandu, you’ll probably see him too.

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