Inthe mid Eighties, Manu Chao ( José Manuel Thomas Artur Chao) alias Oscar Tramor during his debuts, a young frenchman born of spanish parents was the leader of a much appreciated rockabilly and rhythm&blues band , The Hotpants. the band affirmed itslf amond circles such as that of les Garçons Bouchers, the Béruriers Noirs and los Carayos (in which Manu also played.)
At the same time, new establishments were opening, new labels were being created and a new public emerged; passionate rockers, the majority of which where more interesed in the alternative french music than the conventional, mostly american, sounds the radio was broadcasting.
In 1987, well prepared by the Hot Pants experience,Manu Chao together with his cousin Santi Casariego, the drummer of the band, managed to make his dream a reality, and formed a band recepttive to all styles of music, incorporating rockabilly, reggae, rap, salsa, ska, flamenco, raï... A band which allowed people to dance to a magical mixture of rhythms.
The members of the band, of various origins including spanish, french and north-african, freely integrated thier cultures into this new musical initiative.
With Manu Chao (lyrics,guitar) and Santi Casariego (drums,chorus),Manus brother Antoine (trumpet), Philippe Treboul (percussion), Thomas Darnal (claviers), Daniel Jamet (guitar),and Jo Dahan (bass),there was the birth of a special sound, unanimously baptised, " Patchanka. "
Whithin a few months, Mano Negra, with its intense and dynamic live performances,scored a number one hit in independant french rock with 'Mala vida', an up-beat flamenco tune. Out of the divers competing record companies, Virgin was the lable concerned with the band, barly a year in existence, granting a contract which allowed for complete artistic freedom.
At the time of the release of the 2nd album, 'Putas fever' (autumn of 1989), Manu Negra had already made a name for itself in Spain, Italy, The Netherlands and in Scandinavia. Sales passed 35,000 in France and 200,000 outside the county. The band gave concerts in South-america and toured the USA as the beginning act with Iggy Pop,they also managed to sell out the Town and Country club in London, twice !
Blessed with a heavier sound, an influence of the USA tour, the succes of 'King of the Bongo' in 1991, was incontestable. The band decided to oncentrate on South-America and embarked on an innovative project. In the spring of1992, Manu Negra departed accompanied by a theatre group, the departed on the Cargo Tour adventure, which would make them pass though all the main ports (Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Bogota, Caracas...) on board a ship especially designed and adapted to serve as a large, futuristic and perplexing stage.
This initiative, which permitted Mano Negra to enter into a close relationship with the local population, their vivacity despite thier poverty lead the band to form strong bonds with that part of the world. In Mexicothe band was received as a band from the neighbourhood. In Cuba the Chao brothers followed the tracks of thier grandfather, who had been a long time inhabitor of the island.
On its return, Mano Negra found itself conforted by the need to evade the conspiracies of fame.
Eventhough they had accomplished international prestige, Mano Negra continued to give free concerts and sell tickets at reduced prices in the places futher away from the french metropolitan peripheries.
Six years of uninterupted activity,however, started to weigh down on the musicians and some, such an Antoine, abandoned the adventure, making space for new and welcome members.
At the end of 1992, the live album 'In the hell of Patchinko', which was recorded in Japan, was released.
During the winter of 1993, in the middle of the recording of 'Casa Babylon', Mano Negra returned to Latin America and went on a train journey through the remotest regions of Colombia.
Whith the splendid 'Casa Babylon', Mano Negras 4th album, the band had become more mature than ever and incredibly enlarged thier musical horizons.
'Casa Babylon' is a ships journal which is moving and fascinating, the 15 works emerge in an explosion of blended rhythms and sons, with a marvelous flourish of percussion as well as a remarkable variety of voices, melodies and styles.
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