Clandestino – In Search of Manu Chao


“You cannot change the world but everyone can change their neighburhood”

In Search of Manu Chao
Peter Culshaw
Serpents Tail publishers

I’ve always been stubborn. It’s a trait I recognise when talking to my stubborn Father. For Example I used to really like the Cardiacs, I went to see them twice and their anarchic take on live show with songs going in different directions was a great challenge to me being brought up on three chord punk rock. And then someone told me they sounded a bit like Genesis, or was it Pink Floyd? I dunno, I had spent too much time avoiding Genesis and Pink Floyd to find out, so I kind of gave up on the Cardiacs. Harsh but true. I was the same way with bands on major record labels. If they had the machinations of the music industry behind them they didn’t need my support. So I never listened to them. Of course this was after many of the bands that had introduced me to music in the first place. Bands like the Clash, Damned and the Pistols. But the second wave for me was all about bands bringing out their own records. So Mano Negra came along and went. Sure weren’t they with Virgin Records?

I spent the first 100 pages of this book confusing Manu Caho with someone from Negu Gorriak. You see I was involved in helping Negu Gorriak from Euskadi get a gig over here with Anhrefn in the early 90’s. Mano Negra were from Paris but spent a lot of time championing causes like the Basque Seperatist movement and in the midst of time they had morphed for me. And then the penny dropped. This is not the singer from Negu Gorriak!! It certainly didn’t spoil my enjoyment and this book was been a real learning experience for me.

Whether learning about Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Argentina or Mexico where Mano Negra played and Manu Chau is a huge star or a reminder of the recent history of France and Spain. When Manu started playing Spain was escaping the tyranny of Fascism. For much of the 80’s there was messiness and freedom as fascists fell, rose in popularity and fell again. That trend is now emerging once more as people blame fellow humans for their plight. When you read that the name Mano Negra comes from Andalucian anarchists in the 1880’s and also Hispanic New Mexicans fighting for land and water rights in the 1960’s and 70’s and signifies as the Black Hand, you get a preview into Manu Chaos activism.

This is what he is, an advocate for dispossessed peple, a believer in Human Rights but beneath it all he is human and like us all has flaws and contradictions. Thankfully these are included in here although it kind of reads as a footnote. By the way he enjoys Coca-Cola when he has a hangover. he may have looked at porn on his phone. My guess is the author, Peter Culshaw, felt an imperative for us to see Manu as containing some flaws. most of the 350 pages are tales of how Manu, through his music, tries to be inclusive and no doubt there will be the backlash as humans being humans we will search for flaws. In much the same was as when some people hear about vegetarians they automatically think about the clothes they are wearing and take some joy if they find out there was cruelty involved in their production people will be looking for the contradictions in Manu’s lifestyle.

When Mano Negra (Manu’s third band to record) were looking to relaeas a record there was Strong internal discussion on whether they sign to a major, “the angel of justice versus the devil of money”. There was a realisation of the contradiction of being an advocate of anti-globalisation whilst also being signed to a subsidiary of EMI. However the choice was made to further the message as they saw it.

We read of the journeys of that band like the train journey through Colombia when Mano Negra re-activated disused train tracks and brought their own customised train around the country. Much like a traveling circus, they wanted to play to the people. THe train of Ice and fire it was called. This was a journey of free gigs an free spirits travelling through. Think about it, there are villages in Colombia that don’t experience tourism. It was (and still is) a dangerous country at war. Like our own history in Ireland there were Families battling it out against each other, sometimes fatefully and then a motley crew arrive into town after much negotiation with some army or another to allow them into the village. And their mode of transport is the train tracks that have been disused for years!

This is more than a biography, the book higlights the struggle in dakhla, algeria where up to 200,000 sahrawi people live in refugee camps and have done so for more than 30 years right.

There are many references to Mexico and the Zapatistas, with royalties given to the cause. The revolution and struggle in Chiapas is dear to Manu’s heart as he talks about the politics of the neighbourhood, “you cannot change the world but everyone can change their neighburhood”. We read of when Manu went to Rio to live among the poor despite the danger of the favelas.

It was also the tale of the death of the band who couldn’t sustain this idealism whilst trying to pay bills at home, Mano Negra finished in Paris playing to over 50,000 people but the band couldn’t sustain the liflestyle.

There’s more to Manu Chao then Mano Negra and we hear of his solo shows his constant travelling, his eccentricities. I am struck however by his respect for Joe Strummer. How many rock and roll tales start with a clash song or a gig?
“When I began to write songs, The Clash were my model”. In a similar way to Irish Journalist Michael McCaughen who has written about Latin America as well as Ireland and indeed travelled to Nicaragua on foot of The Clash’s Sandinista Manu writes songs as therapy, to address the rage he feels about this world.

A greaty story.


The 2 tone era

Horace Panter
Ska’d for life
Panmacmillan books


Pauline Black
Black By Design
Serpentstail publishing

2 books from 2 people in 2 different bands during the same era, both autobiographies. Horace’s one has been on my shelf for a while now but after picking up Pauline Blacks autobiography I thought I would do them both justice and read them concurrently.

Pauline was up first and we get a lot of her background in here. It must have been a cathartic experience to write as many demons would have been exercised and we hear how hard it was growing up as a black person in not only a predominately white neighbourhood but in a white family (Pauline was adopted). Her experience is one of not really belonging. There is some good background into the recording experience and how the selecter put together their landmark single too much pressure.

Horace doesn’t dwell too much on his upbringing preferring to dive pretty much straight into the music. There’s a different air to his writing. Whilst Pauline black has an edginess to her style Horace is more straightforward, more in the “Enjoy Yourself” specials way. That’s not to say that hard issues aren’t tackled. The most revealing thing from both books is how much unhappiness went into being in a successful band, playing to hundreds, if not thousands of people wherever you travelled (and there was a lot of travelling).

If you’re reading this then you know the story, punk rock came – anyone could for, a band and many did. This was the catalyst for kids trying their own style, one such style was ska and 2 tone records in Coventry featured bit the specials and selecter. These books are stories of the expecting bands.

With Pauline though there is a sense that if it weren’t for the rain it would be sunny all the time. It seemed that it was other people who stood in the way of selecter fame, be that producers, tour managers, record labels or riots on the street… With Horace it was circumstances that fed their success, be it punk rock. Tur managers, record labels or riots (their single Ghost town was almost the title tune for riots throughout Britain in 1971.

Paline has subsequently gone on to other projects with various success but has returned to her first love of music. Horace moved away from the music business to become a teacher but a bass is never far away from him.

Reading both books would not make me want to be in a band, it sold almost scare me off. It emphasises the pressures that musicians feel under to perform at a gig, or recording a song or writing a record. Pressures from many angles. It paints a picture of a music business not too concerned with bands but with the amount of product they were selling. It tells tails of kids exposed to money and drugs. They both give an account of an historic time in music, whether the bands believed it or not.


What In the World is going on?

What In The World
political travels in Africa, Asia and the Americas
Peadar King
Liffey Press

When I was a kid I loved fairytales. I had pictures in my mind of good winning out over evil and happy endings being the real story of life. Of course as age took over it became one of the tragedies of life that happy endings were the exception rather than the rule for many. As I became a parent myself I took out these fairytales to pass on to my offspring. My adult eyes viewed them very differently. How could wolves be so cruel? what about them poor three little pigs? Red riding hood was terrified?

And this is what Peadar has encapsulated in this brilliant book. We are brought on a journey through picturesque continents, exotic lands we have all seen beauty in – Mongolia, Angola, Laos, Cambodia, Burma, Argentina, Mauritius and many more. What In the World is primarily a documentary series in which Peadar King narrates conditions in specific countries. This is a book dealing with some tales from the documentary series. Each series deals with a continent and explores society in a straightforward manner that details the gap between rich and poor. Peadar tells the story of the poor.

Not just that we hear about racism in the US. Former US president Jimmy Carter’s wife Rosa Lynn tells us that “racism pervades the criminal justice system in our country” whilst discussing the death penalty in her country. One in every thirty three people come under some type of supervision by an adult correctional facility. It is amazing how many time the US and its government gets mentioned throughout the book. In Peru, where the war on drugs has extended to the Andes. Extreme poverty has driven up to two million people to grow cocoa on whatever land they have. This ‘business’ generates approx $300 BILLION per year (yes the figures are startling) and less than 1% stays in the area it is produced. The WAR on drugs sees land being totally eradicated but the people who farm this land still live in abject poverty.

When reading all the real life reflections (I refuse to call them stories as there is some perception of fiction in that word) there is a common theme. People are ignored in the pursuit of profit and power. We hear of Patagonia were Benneton paid $50 million for 900,000 hectares. Land on which people were living and suddenly found themselves evicted on with miles and miles of barbed wire fencing surrounding it much like the great wall of China or what the Isrealis are doing in Palestine. Mapuchean people who live on the land are being displaced and elbowed out by people coming into the country buying the land from corrupt governments. How about Mongolia, 30% of public land has been leased to Foreign mining companies.

We hear of the dangers of documentary making. In Kenya whilst reporting on the Turkana and Pokot tribes Peadar and his team came under direct confrontation with AK-47 yielding local soldier. Water supply in the region is determined by the needs of the production of electricity (for profit) rather than by the faremers who live on the land. A dam has been built for the purpose of a Hydro Electricity plant controversially built (imagine that) with no apparent thoughts about the consequences of displacing people from the land it was built on.

People tend to take second place. it is hard to put into words the poverty that people face in Africa and elsewhere. Every 5 seconds a child dies of hunger, 23,000 children EVERY DAY. Close your eyes and imagine that. This poverty is not just in the third world however. 14% of the population of the u.s. live below the official poverty threshold. Whilst this threshold is way above the standard for many in the third world it is still startling.

Death and loss seem to be somehow acceptable for many in society today . In Mauritius, the people of Chagos Island were forcibly moved from their homes to allow a military base to be built in the Indian Ocean. Built by whom? US and Britain. Somehow the 2,000 inhabitants of the island were cleared or left.

The tragedy of Cambodia where over 2 million of its people were killed by the Pol Pot regime. Approx 30% of the population, wiped out.

The tragedy of LAOS is brought home to us. A neutral county in the Vietnam War it’s problem was that it bordered Vietnam (and therefore people flowed there) and between 1964 and 1973 the US dropped 78 MILLION bombs there. One every 8 minutes, for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. That brings a new meaning to 24x7x365. Even worse not all the bombs exploded at the time and some are STILL there like booby traps for unsuspecting innocent people. The impact this has on people today is startling. Imagine going to work, or school or wherever every day and not being sure if the route you take is laden with unexploded devices ready to decimate you or your family?

India is not cast aside, It is the worlds largest democracy (1 billion people live here). In Hyderabad child labour is rampant in the cotton fields. Children are bonded slaves in certain instances. It also has its place in the contradictory list of the rich and poor where the combined wealth of the richest 100 people is $300billion, whilst also being home to one third of the worlds poor

Water is also a big issue. There are falling water levels and it is being privateesd throughout the world. We are told that 12 million people in Mali are at risk with the fall of water levels in the niger River.

This is contradicted in too few countries. Bolivia being one. IN 2000 the World bank refused to extend loans to the country unless it privatised some public services including water (Sound familiar to Irish people?). This happened and protest flowed on to the streets. In Cochamba 2 protestors were blinded by gunfire and another killed. The protests were successful and water is still under public ownership to this day. This has lead to further mobilisations in Bolivia and when Morales took democratic power in 2005 his first act was to reduce Ministers pay, and indeed his won, by 57%. Morales mantra is that capitalism has failed and we want “No more masters, only partners”. James Connolly is quoted here too “Capitalism has failed and failed badly”.

As described by Peadar “When confronted by human tragedy, the temptation is to both stare and look away. We slow down at car crashes while we briskly walk past homeless drunkards stretched out on the pavements of our streets….. The stark reality is that inequality is on the increase”.

I urge you to check this out, read it absorb it and PLEASE try and do something about all this inequality. We are inhibited by Sectraianism throughout the planet. We can admire our differences and as Flux used to sing “There’s enough for all of our need but not for all of our greed”



100 year old man going strong

The one hundred year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared published by Hesperus Press

It’s been a long time since I was in school. Back in those days it was something that got in the way of playing football or playing cards or hanging around talking about football or cards. There were some some subjects I took a passing interest in and the older and wiser head now wishes I paid a bit more attention to these. The subjects were namely history and English. They were probably the only two classes I stopped daydreaming for, doesn’t mean I did anything more but at least I listened….. Sometimes

Of course with history i thought I knew best and preferred modern stuff to all the talk about Romans and Greeks. I scoffed at the tsar of Russia, laughed at hitler and did spend a few minutes thinking about the mess in Korea and china but then thought about what was happening in ireland instead. It was when I joined the school of punk rock that I got interested in Paris 1968 or the Spanish civil war. That showed another world was possible. I then got interested in modern day politics and how corruption is still very much rife.

This book charts many events of the 20th century and has one person Allan karllson hanging out with Stalin, Mao tae tsung, us president Truman and many others. But it is a story of this Mans life and travels much more than discussing the history of the past.

It also tells the tale of how Allan stepped out of the window of his retirement home when he was 100 and embarked on another journey. The journey leads from
One bizarre event to another and whilst leafing through the pages my imagination was running wild. This is the screenplay for an amazing movie. A lovely tale of life and how to live it whilst taking incidents from the past and explaining the tragedy in 1 or 2 sentences. If only mr ward was Able to explain history and English like this back in the day

niall hope


The family fang – reviewed

The family fang by Kevin Wilson published by picador books

This is a smart story. The concept behind the whole thing is compelling. 2 people interested in challenging people’s perceptions in the name of art become husband and wife (for real after many times doing it for their art) and have a family.

The conundrum that follows is the plot that holds this book together. They were artists before being parents, can that order ever change? They bring their children into their world and have them as active participants in their prank world for exhibitionism. Child A and B then become young adults and seek to experience the world outside the fang creative art way. This is when the parents really need to decide what is more important

Along the way there is reference to black flag and bad brains which is enough to pique my interest for a hundred pages and some scenes of madness that makes you wish you had been there to witness it. Except it never happened of course, this is a book after all. Flash mobs created for the art world on an unsuspecting public by the family fang are described in great detail.

My problem was I didn’t get to like the two kids. Buster became a failed writer and Annie a failed actress. It didn’t matter to me whether they cold turn things round. Their failures brought them back to their parents and the story takes off from there.

It had enough to want me to keep going to page 396 but my relation was to the parents who had the dilemma and I kept flicking to see what ultimate art experience lay in store for them, if any. I didn’t really care how it effected their children and what it brought into their adult lives. Maybe you would though.

6/10 one for the charity shop or library for sure



The House of Silk

house of silkThe House of Silk
Anthony Horowitz (orion books)

growing up I was a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes movies. Nigel Bruce and Basil rathbone my favourite actors and Arthur Conan Doyle the best novelist ever. I never really read any of his works but those films held a special place in my heart.

As the cycle of life continues to revolve I make it my bsusiness to watch a couple of Holmes movies per year, usually at Christmas in between it’s a wonderful life and Willie Wonka.

I have watched many pretenders to the throne but no actor has been able to give me a real sense of Holmes as Rathbone. BBC’s recent series of Sherlock came pretty close but when I put the monochrome one back on my screen I was enraptured once again.

It was with this background that I started reading the New Shelock Holmes Novel. The fact that it was endorsed by the estate of Holmes’s creator was a positive start. From there the positives keep occurring. A novel that has me picturing BBC’s Holmes as much as my original throughout the pages.It captures the smog and dark streets of London perfectly.

The Houpse of Silk has all the elements for a Holmes and Watson story.

There are twists and turns taking us through areas of London that are unwelcoming to visitors, there’s Inspector Lestrade receiving plenty of stick from colleagues and Holmes but with him displaying a loyalty and respect for the Private Investigator. There’s the relationship between Holmes and Watson with an interesting addition of Watsons wife playing second fiddle to the sleuths relationship. There’s even a cameo by Inspector Moriarty.

It is one of those books that gets you chasing to the end, I’m not a big reader of fiction as I’m in constant search of information but I recommend yo get down to the library and give this some of your time.

niall hope

Come here and i tell ya

come here to me
Come Here to Me!
Dublin’s Other history
(New Ireland Press)

Ive been a very interested observer to a few Dublin blogs over the past couple of years and high on the list has been There is always something interesting to view and stories to read. Bringing out a book with a collection of these tales is a perfect fit. I always prefer to have a book in my hand rather than a webpage so this has become vital for people like me. There is a sense at times when reading Irish history that this was a time for other people, when reading these short collections you can picture yourself on dublins cobbled streets. Very often Dublin is seen as a capital cosmopolitan city but come here to me shows dublins character.

As someone born and raised on Dublins northside with parents and grandparents close to the northside streets along with my wife and her parents all born within a stones throw this is something that assists with my pride. i am proud to be from dublin, it has many faults but this is my city. Come here to me and i tell ya is often heard on the streets and for anyone with some interest in our city this is a great read

The City Is Ablaze

Music is so emotive. Most of my life experiences have a soundtrack And as I sit recalling tales of yesteryear to my 3kids there is usually a song, gig, album or band reference. My memories of youth revolve around sporting or musical events. First football match is equalled by first album. Sure I remember euro 88, wasn’t that lWhere i bought some ex singles and the same year fugazi came to Dublin?

My earliest memory of being a music fan is getting rid of a showaddywaddy album that was bought for me and taping elvis Costello and the attractions armed forces album. My older bros provided the playlist for me when I reached double digit years and I was the sponge absorbing it all. Sitting in my parents kitchen listening to Ian Dury, the pistols, the clash and just being enamoured by that energy. That was my primary education and after a couple of years I started getting my own records. Skids days in europa album was a Christmas present I remember and I got addicted. Any chance I got I would be listening. At night I would gladly go to bed and take out the transistor radio in the hope that there would be a half way decent reception for the John peel show. It was a struggle at times but well worth it as I discovered many bands that would help shape my life.

One such band was the ruts. I heard of Malcolm Owens death and felt it was such a dreadful waste of life, and then ian Curtis too. Why did this happen? My first fanzine, whose life is it anyway, was written with Malcolm Owen on my mind. Ah fanzines, they are such wonderful things. That was the second part of my education I could hear bands on John peel and then write letters to them asking them questions. My bands were all so accessible – I wanted to tell the world all about them. Don’t rely on hot press for your awareness check out all these bands they wouldnt touch. One of the first bands I communicated regularly with was the membranes. Their singer John robb was an energetic monster, they came to Ireland and played, I helped them along the way and was driven by johns enthusiasm. Other bands of the the time that felt so important were. Bands like crass, flux of pink Indians, the redskins – all singing about stuff that mattered and not bothered on waiting for others to do things for them.

And so I wrote about them and the along in me kept absorbing the written word of other fanzines. Once I saw some photocopied pages with text about politics or music I was quite willing to part with my cash. Letters were sent, any sterling I could get my hands on was smuggled into envelopes with soap stained stamps. There was an excitement each day as the postman arrived on the double. Oh yes there was 2 deliveries a day back then and I was getting mail each time. I must have spent a fortune on stamps but got to reuse any that could be cleaned and our network kept growing. Bands like the three johns, wedding present, bogshed, dandelion adventure, archbishop kebab, Dawson, dog faced hermans, pregnant neck etc. etc.were my soundtrack to these letters. These bands created their own rules and had fanzines like ablaze to champion them.

Reading this book is like going through my 7″ collection whilst flicking through fliers of hope gigs. Splintered and grim humour? Remember the band and zine? I sure do. The keatons? Charlie’s on a Saturday afternoon the weekend my nan tragically died. Ac temple? Charlie’s again. Babes in toy land, huggy bear the list goes on and on. I can’t begin to say how good this book is and how it is a vital document of life two decades ago. Please check it out and thank you to karren for putting it all together and in true fanzine spirit publishing it herself. Support the project, make it a Christmas present for yourself

Gimme Something Better Please

Gimme Something Better – “The Profound, Progressive, and ocassionally pointless History of Bay Area Punk from Dead Kennedys to Green Day”
by Jack Boulware and Silke Tudor (Penguin Books)

I love these types of books.  Historical, geographical and telling a punk rock stroy.  Every City has a story and more and more cities have these collections.  The style of writing is similar to John Robbs Death to Trad Rock book, or American Hardcore by Steven Blush.  It consists of quotes from people. The authors must have spent exhaustive hours trying to get eye witness accounts recorded with stories covering nearly a 30 year period.  It must have been an editing nightmare to decide what made it to the cutting room floor.  It is no surprise that to hear that it took 3 years to complete this 489 page book.

As for it’s story – well The title says it all. Even though they are not mentioned on the title this does start at the start.  Punk rock coming to town and bands like the Nuns, Avengers and Crime starting up.  An avenue I quite enjoy is where the book talks about venues.  Punk rock (and music) isn’t just about bands turning up to play.  There’s a whole network of people making things happening, people who may have never touched a guitar in their life. These people are recounting their perspectives here.  Another aspect is the energy, excitment and fear that came from attending punk shows in the 70’s.  You would most certainly be returning from a night out with more marks on you in those early punk days.

As punk rock developed in the Bay Area and people started making things happen for themselves you really get that feeling through quotes from those who made the fanzines, booked the shows, attended the shows and bought the tshirts as well as from band members.

I must admit a slight bias. Back in 1980’s Dublin I used to devour the punk zine maximum Rock’n’Roll, often called the punk rock bible MRR is still in existence today.  It was through MRR that I could find out about all those cities around the world screaming their lungs out.  I have an abiding memory of receiving a reply from Tim Yohannon (RIP) after sending questions for an interview with him, the then editor.  Tim spoke all his answers on to one side of a cassette (anyone remember those) and did a compilation of SF bands on the other side.  That type of inclusion and respect carried through to me for so much of what I did with music. Every month MRR had scene reports and tons of reviews and intrerviews. better still it had addresses where you could write to people.  Some of those interiewed for Gimme Something Better were old penpals of mine. Others were zine wirters of zines I bought regularily or of bands that subsequently played in Dublin.  Through Hope Promotions (and then Hope Collective) I was lucky to be in a postion to provide some assistance to some of the East Bay Bands.  It’s nice to hear how they started up through these pages.

Reading all the accounts it made me want to check out some bands I missed first time round, like the aforementioned Avengers and also to dust down those 7″s of bands like Winona Ryder, Econochrist and Monsula.  It also made me want to revisit those Green Day, Dead Kennedys, Victims Family and Operation Ivy records that haven’t had an airing for me in 2011.  The soundtrack will go on for ever.

My life is better for reading this book- I suggest you root it out and then make it happen in your town.


niall hope

behind the SCENES with Green Day – Cometbus *54

*54 In China With Green DayThe great DIY Vs Major Label debate is generally presented in black and white. There is so much talk about ‘selling out’ that we sometimes forget that some people live in both worlds simultaneously.

Niall Hope got me the latest issue of Cometbus fanzine and it is fascinating. It also gives a great insider prespective on what happens when a band moves from DIY to major label.

While Loserdom is still my favourite current zine, this issue of Cometbus (number #54) may well be my favourite issue of a zine in ages. It is a 93 page diary of Green Day’s former tour manager reunited with the band (as their paid guest) on part of their Far Eastern tour. Most people who pen a loving tribute to any band who provided such a trip, but not Aaron Cometbus.

Instead he uses the zine to detail his feelings about being in the Far East, being around a band he used to work for unpaid, and to reflect on some of the people (including Green Day’s early drummer who has never cashed to cheques sent to him by the band!.

This is a very rare piece of rock and roll writing. It lives in the great gray area where real people do real things even in the surreal surroundings of a great American band playing to stadia of young Asians. Additionally there are some interesting insights about the various audiences in the different countries.You’ss have to read it to see which country has a strong cultural taboo against putting you hand on anyone’s head!

One interesting insight is the bond of friendship shared by the three members of Green Day. Rare in this industry and after so many years. The enduring image from this mini-book is the band (along with the fanzine writer and one of their touring musicians) playing Scrabble together in the hotel at night.


the wildhearted outsider