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Why I love… Mano Negra

February 8, 2011

The other day, it occurred to me that I had to talk about Mano Negra sooner or later. Having listened to them for 6 years, I guess I’m ready now. What to say first? Maybe that it’s one of several bands founded by half French, half Spanish singer Manu Chao, but by far the most famous – probably not in England though. Never mind. Just trust me!

Mano Negra – Out of Time Man

I remember the first time I listened to Mano Negra; I wasn’t that impressed. According to me, they were a fair enough band, but nothing more. Yes, the sound of Mano Negra is one of those we need time to really appreciate its true value. As they’ve got only four studio albums, I seriously recommend you to listen to them in chronological order. Good thing because Patchanka, which is their first master-work, is the easiest album to tackle.

First and foremost, you have to know where their name comes from. Literally, Mano Negra means “black hand”, which in Latin America is also a term to designate illegal employment. Originally it was an anarchist organization created in Andalucìa (Spain) who employed the black hand as their symbol. This Mano Negra became their artwork on all of their albums, including Best of & Live Opus. I think it fits perfectly with the kind of music they try to pass on; revolutionary and independent – full of joie de vivre.

Describing their musical genre is not an easy task. First of all, because usually I’m crap at this and secondly, because Mano Negra do not categorically stick to one genre. Well, I’ll take the risk. From what I know about music so far, it’s a hell of a mix – ska, reggae, rock, punk and latino rythms (salsa?!) are noteworthy on most of their albums. I think they just want to have fun by writing unexpected and crazy tunes.

Let’s say it like this; Mano Negra is a loco band. Seriously, I never had the chance to see them live but according to my references (thanks Youtube), they were amazingly energetic, like their crowd of fans jumping up and down; pogo-ing, if I can say that. Their live performances were their biggest asset as a band; they used to play a lot during summer festivals in the 90’s but also travelled around the world (South America, Japan, Europe).

A bit about Patchanka, this potent musical wonder, which reminds me how, over and over, I used to listen to it very loud on my hi-fi, locked in my room like a rebellious teenager. This first album set the tone for the albums to come. Mano Negra is a multicultural band with multicultural songs written in English, French, Spanish & Catalàn. The music is so deep that it has soaked into my veins and makes me feel like dancing on “Mala Vida”, singing on “Darling, darling”, travelling on “La Ventura”, shouting on “King kong five”, spacing out on “Guayaquil city” and making love on “Salga la luna”. Every song is like an exile; it’s a rotation of lively killa rhythms (“Killin’ rats”) and heady slow songs (“Takin’ it up”). But you take advantage of both alternatives. The biggest hit when they were at the apogee of their success was “Mala Vida”, very popular thanks to the trumpet, which I reckon brings a lot to this song. Patchanka was released in 1988 but still sounds like a new discovery every time I listen to it.

Therefore, get into this band; it’s worthwhile. And if you really dislike it, fine, you have no taste. Enjoy!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. mDilsh permalink
    February 8, 2011 10:20 pm

    ‘Guayaquil City’ is a lovely song:

    This band is certainly better than I first thought – great recommendation!

  2. February 17, 2013 6:59 pm

    My favorite one is ‘Ronde de Nuit’. I rarely ear a band liberating such an energy!
    Je t’aime Mano Negra

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