Manu Chao sings “Politik Kills.” Video by D. Solomon.
The brilliant globetrotter musician Manu Chao made a special appearance at USC on Oct. 18 to talk life, culture, music and politics with Latino culture scholar Josh Kun. (Part of the “Distinguished Lecture Series for Latin American Art and Culture.”) It was an amazing evening.
Kun introduced Chao by commenting, “Resignation, our guest likes to say, is permanent suicide. Instead of giving up, he has urged us to keep tuning in to the “radio bembas” all around us. To tell truth in the face of lies, and keep singing along in whatever language you need to be heard in the right way.”
When Chao took his seat on the stage, he admitted to feeling “a little bit nervous.” But the French-born artist quickly fell into comfortable conversation with Kun, who supplemented Chao’s replies with recorded songs, video clips, images, and a wealth of knowledge on Chao’s music and history.
Throughout the hour-long discussion, Chao firmly and unapologetically expressed beliefs and ideas on a range of topics, such as, “The cultures of the world are much more connected than before…Talking about countries is more and more totally stupid.” Wearing a track-style jacket zipped up to the neck and glasses perched over a head of thick, graying curls, Chao treated the audience to a glimpse of his conversational, thoughtful, everyday persona.
Manu Chao discusses Tijuana. Video by D. Solomon.
The bare-chested, manically-energized man of the stage emerged the following evening at The Troubadour, in a wild and spirited show that didn’t let the audience catch its breath even once. Chao clearly appreciated the crowd’s roar when he sang ferociously, bounced around the stage, banged a microphone against his head and heart, and thrust his guitar forward to emphasize every urgent chord.
Yet I still believed every word Chao had told the USC audience the day before: “I’m a little guy who’s been very lucky. More and more, I feel that I’m a musician. I’m a shy guy who got famous.”
Manu Chao sings “Welcome to Tijuana.” Video by D. Solomon.
Watch the complete talk here, courtesy of USC Annenberg: