Next Station – Hope!

Proxima Estacion: Esperanza by Manu Chao

Manu Chao

I can’t believe I have been missing this 2000 album for so long!  For some reason I expected a Spanish album, but the first song was mostly in English, and I guessed that the second one was in Portuguese!  For a brief moment, I thought perhaps this was featuring Esperanto (which Wikipedia calls “a constructed international auxiliary language”) but no, there are actually multiple languages used across the various songs, sometimes within a song.  Various musical styles from around the world are featured.  This gives the album a very international, world-tour feel that is exciting.  I believe the artist is actually from France; however per Google Play “Chao and others sing in Arabic, English, French, Galician, Portuguese, and Spanish on this album.”  Aha!

I remember being in Toulouse in 2001, when reggae was very popular.  A lot of the bars had live music that summer, and I had the opportunity to hear a fun band and purchase an album.  Manu Chao reminded me of that special experience – the reggae beats, the sweaty crowded smoky bar, and a friend’s comment to me – “il faut que tu lèves tes pieds!”  I suspect that Manu Chao was all over the place at French music stores back then, but in my generally overwhelmed state at being in a new city speaking only French, I never noticed.

I cannot provide valid comparisons for you, because I have not been exposed to many of the international music styles used (for no good reason). I loved this CD, and will certainly keep an eye out for music similar to Manu Chao in the future! This tidbit I pulled from the Google Play page is very telling, as to what kind of treat you are in for: “In 2010 Esperanza was listed at #65 in Rolling Stone magazine’s “Best Albums of the Decade.” In 2012, the album listed at #474 on the Rolling Stone’s The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Description provided by Wikipedia under Creative Commons Attribution CC-BY-SA 4.0.”

The two songs I most enjoyed really got stuck in my head.  “Le Rendez Vous” is my favorite.  This has a 40s jazz styling, with quick and clever English/French lyrics delivered in a way that feels like a musical number from some 40s Broadway show à la “Kiss Me Kate”.  Track #6 “Me Gustas Tu” has a very repetitive chorus that you will be singing all day; the lyrics are in French and suggest dealing with confusion, complacency, misguided tolerance, and passivity about important issues.  Interestingly, #5 (“La Primavera”) is basically the same song as #6 from a musical perspective, with the same chorus.  The first sounds more stripped down and serious (I heard the word “Washington” so I’m guessing this is political) while the second one is more playful, even if the subject matter is not.

This repetition of musical themes happens again later on in the album: Track #15 “Homens” has the same musical themes as “Mr. Bobby” (Track #11), featuring a singular repeating tone that provides a modern feel over a fairly traditional song played in a minor key. Finally, “Infinita Tristeza” takes the slide whistle sounds and musical structure from #6 again as the background for more vocal samples – police loudspeakers, news clips, and a conversation between a child and his mother.  This last song provides a significant closing to this album that pulls together all of the various multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-musical and socio-political elements into one unified project at the end. While each of these Manu Chao songs could stand alone, to fully appreciate this album it should be considered in its entirety.  You will enjoy the experience!

Link to Google Play to Sample Tracks:

Link to Amazon to Purchase Album:

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