Manu Chao – Clandestino (1998)

“Clandestino” is an album that seems to look backwards to a time when songs meant something, when people thought music could change the world, elaborated in the format of the new globalised pop. At the time of its release, it sounded perfect: on the side of the dispossessed and the immigrants, united by common music, sung from both a European and a South American perspective.

The cheerful first sixteen tracks bring air and light into the brain and soul. Manu often switches between four languages throughout the album, and the words are very catchy. It’s sometimes funny for the listener to eventually realise that some of them are actually in English. It’s a peculiar Manu Chao sort of English, where he adds a catchy twist in a subliminal way, but always remaining true to the political message of his work.

With its sort-of-flamenco guitar parts and Latin trumpet licks in the background, the album underlines its message to the Spanish-speaking audiences of unity against capitalism and the imperialistic interests of certain countries. The heart of most songs is his acoustic guitar, strummed so simply it’s hard to explain why it’s so attractive and addictive. As with so much pop music, the secret is in a particular rhythmic emphasis, and Manu has his own way of how and when he hits his beats. Equally remarkable is his way of singing, hardly more than talking. It all seems so simple,

but it’s harder than it looks. No other popular musician of the past decade has inspired more would-be imitators worldwide, yet none of his followers has managed to create music that is even close to what he does.

Manu Chao is the leader of those who belong to no tribe, the voice for the millions who turn their backs on propaganda and celebrity. Their support guarantees the success of this album through Europe and Latin America. Let’s see if the rest of the world will finally catch up with one of the few truly all-embracing music-makers of our time.

This album has accompanied me since I was around 8 years old and I never get tired of listening to it from time to time. I am certain that if Manu had promoted his album properly for the rich audiences, instead of embarking on tours around Latin America in order to present his music to the people he actually sings about in the songs, he would have been as big as U2 or Coldplay.

Dario Möbius-Gomez

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