#301 Manu Chao – Proxima Estacion Esperanza

This is Manu Chao’s second solo album, but my first. I came across him from attending WOMAD festival in 2002, the summer after my girlfriend and I returned from our two-year round-the-world trip and were trying to recapture the freedom and joie de vivre by buying a campervan. Definitely a good move at a music festival, you always feel somewhat privileged amongst the hordes of unwashed and slightly dazed by being able to lie down somewhere in the dry. Chao wasn’t performing there that year (Mariza, Rachid Taha and Orchestra Baobab were amongst the highlights) but this album was being played everywhere. We fell in love with his infectiously fun, globally diverse multilingual music.

Chao was the frontman of the French group Manu Negra for 8 years and this album is similarly multilingual, often changing languages in the middle of a song. Chao solo is not a million miles from Manu Negra in terms of offering us a melting pot of styles, samples and musical influences, a band ahead of their time in terms of bringing ‘world music’ to the masses.

His sophomore effort doesn’t breaks any new ground from his solo debut, Clandestino, but it’s such fun to listen to, I can’t imagine anyone would care. The album is a seamless stream of sounds: mixing reggae, Latin American rhythms and percussion. The effect is like 45 minutes of moving the radio dial from station to station somewhere between the Mediterranean and Tangier by way of Guadalajara. Me Gustas Tu has always my favourite track on this record and it never fails to put a smile on my face upon hearing. It emerges nicely between La Primavera and Denia, with Mi Vida, Trapped By Love, Mr Bobby and Promiscuity being other highlights. Marijuana features prominently and regularly in the lyrics, and that’s probably a good accompaniment to enjoying this record to its full.

Best Bits: Me Gustas Tu
Genre: World Music Sampler Extraordinaire
Like This, Try This: I initially assumed that the title referred to Esperanto, given the wide range of languages Chao sings on the album, but it actually means ‘Next Station: Hope’ in Spanish. But if songs in Esperanto is your thing, then Spotify has a list.

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