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Manu Chao Biography

Home > Music > C > Chao, Manu > Biography

Birth Name: José-Manuel Thomas Arthur Chao Treviño
Born: 1961/06/21
Birth Place: Paris, France
Years Active: 1984-present
Genres: Ska, Punk, Jazz, Reggae, Latin, Rock, Alternative

Manu Chao was born José-Manuel Thomas Arthur Chao on June 21, 1961 and is a Spanish/French musician, singer and songwriter. Chao began his musical career busking in the streets of Paris and playing with local bands, such as Hot Pants and Los Carayos. In 1987, Chao, along with his brother Antoine and their cousin Santiago Casariego, formed the band Mano Negra and amassed notable success throughout Europe before Chao decided to pursue a solo career in 1995. As Chao's musical tastes began to develop when he was a teenager, he was heavily influenced by U.K. bands, such as The Clash, and The Jam.

Chao's first musical endeavor, Mano Negra, was signed to Virgin Records and released their debut album “Patchanka.” The band achieved moderate success in South America during their 1992 tour, however by 1994 tensions were strained between the band members and the band began to break apart. After Antoine left the band, Chao decided to call it quits in 1995. Chao relocated to Madrid and formed a new group, Radio Bemba Sound System. This group featured musicians from diverse musical backgrounds, some hailing from Mexico, while others came from Brazil and Argentina. With a mix of cultures, Chao hoped to create a whole new sound in Latin music. The fusion of musical genres resulted in a sound that was drastically different from Mano Negra: Chao sang most of his new songs in Spanish with the style of music moving away from punk and alternative music to a street sound. Chao's debut album with his new band, “Clandestino” arrived in 1998, under his own name.

Initially the album was not a huge commercial success, but eventually earned Chao a Victoires de la Musique Award for 'Best World Music Album' in 1999. Chao's second album, “Próxima Estación: Esperanza,” appeared in 2001 and showcased a heavy Caribbean influence. The album was an instant hit, and followed with a tour. 2004 saw Chao return to his French roots and release a French-language album, “Sibérie m'était contée.” Chao's most current album, “Baionarena” emerged in 2009.