Si No Puedo Bailar, No Quiero Ser Parte de Tu Revolucion
By Kevin Robinson in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 18, 2007 3:00PM
In one of his rare stops in the US, Spanish-born Parisian Latin folk singer cum punk rocker Manu Chao played to a sold-out crowd at the Aragon Ballroom last night.
Wildly popular in both Europe and Latin America, Manu Chao has had less mainstream success in the US, although his fan base here is large and loyal. Heavily influenced by the UK punk scene during his formative years in the suburbs of Paris, Manu Chao's music has been described as an eclectic mix of reggae, punk, and cumbia, and other global influences can be heard in his sound as well. As the crowd waited for Manu to take the stage, the sound of the man addressing the press regarding why Nahuatl Indians in Mexico might take arms and rise up against the government played, the same audio clip heard at the being of Por El Suelo, but without the music. Taking the stage one at a time, the band set the rhythm, until Manu arrived and set the crowd dancing, transitioning easily into songs off his most recent album, and blending them with classics from his debut solo album, Clandestino.
Although the crowd last night was diverse, it's a given that many of his biggest fans aren't fluent in Spanish. No matter. When he declared that Clandestino was dedicated to those crossing the borders and the families that they leave behind, the deeper and more potent message of imperialism and human suffering in the name of family and self-actualization become even more potent.
While his calls for justice and equality ("Education, Jobs for Everyone, Peace and Immigration") may seem simplistic on the surface, Manu Chao's music, and therefore his live performances, aren't really about offering solutions to the complex problems of the world. Instead, his message of humanity and global unity resonated with the crowd, in a way that transcended language and invited people to dance together, at least for one night. Like protest and movement music in the grandest traditions, his music and his live show, as well as his general perspective are about sending a message of unity and solidarity.
As we sat in front of the Aragon after the show last night, it was remarkable to watch people from all parts of Chicago leave the venue — white social drop outs, middle-class immigrants and liberal sympathizers, and Latinos from all parts of the Americas — we couldn't help but feel a sense of pride in the multi-cultural fabric that is the City by the Lake. Sometimes sending people out into the world to deal with the daily struggles of modern global life with a positive message can be far more powerful than any speech, march or rally.
Image via Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres.