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Manu Chao interview: ‘The music of a movement’

This article is over 22 years, 4 months old
Manu Chao is a hugely popular musician across Europe and Latin America – He is also heavily involved in the anti-capitalist movement – On a recent sellout tour of Britain, Manu spoke to Matthew Cookson from Socialist Worker.
Issue 1789
Manu Chao
Manu Chao

Many people in Britain heard of you for the first time during the Genoa protests against the G8 last July. Why were you there?

Because I want a better world. I mixed with a lot of people who maybe don’t think the same, but we all agree that things cannot go on like this. We are not living in democracy. We are living in a dictatorship of money. I want a better future for my child.

I think if we let them do what they want, it’s collective suicide. Fifteen days before the protests began we played a festival in Genoa. Half the price of the tickets went to the Genoa Social Forum, which organised the demonstrations, to build the Clandestino bar.

This bar gave water, apples and basic necessities to the demonstrators. We played in Genoa the night before the protest began. All the money from this show went to pay for lawyers to deal with any problems.

What do you think of the anti-capitalist movement since Genoa?

After Genoa it was a difficult period for the movement because people didn’t know how to react. More people, especially youngsters, think the only solution is violence. Others want to discuss other ways.

Nobody was finding one direction to go in all together. The urgency is to say no to what’s happening so we have to be all together. That’s my politics. But I think now that it’s stabilising and getting better. The next protest is against the European Union council summit in Barcelona in mid-March. We’re trying to play there.

In Barcelona there was the same problem with different groups wanting different protests. We don’t have to be all together behind the same flag. But all the flags must be marching together because they’re very powerful in front. The best weapon is the mass of people. The only leader is the mass. It is the only leader they cannot defeat.

Every time the rulers of the world meet, the movement will be around. As much as possible I will try to be there. Barcelona is my home town. If I am not there in person, all that I am talking is shit.

You have travelled in many parts of the world. What are your different experiences of the movement?

The movement in the north of the world is more intellectual. We are fighting for a better world – not for tomorrow, but for the future. In South America people don’t protest because of political ideas, but because every protester will die if they don’t protest.

In my last tour in South America we were in Ecuador just after all the communities had taken the parliament. The Indians had walked to Quito, the capital, because they were starving – they couldn’t survive. In Bolivia it was the same with the water that the government had privatised. It is the same in Argentina now. In South America the protests are about surviving.

Do you gain musical and political inspiration from these struggles?

I GAIN musical inspiration because that’s my job. I get political and social inspiration because everywhere I go things are not going OK. If everything was going OK I would not do political things – I would just make music. But you have to react.

Everywhere you go, even more in the Third World, this world is so horrible. You cannot hide yourself – there’s a phrase on my record, ‘A resignation is a permanent suicide.’ There’s too much misery that could easily be stopped and is not. You always confront a social problem everywhere you go. What is hopeful is that people everywhere you go do not believe in politicians any more.

I don’t believe George Bush is the perfect man to rule the biggest country in the world. He is very dangerous. He doesn’t respect anything like social or environmental problems. It all comes from the craziness of the economy. I like the front page of Socialist Worker that says Bush is a madman planning to kill again in Iraq.

Where DO you think musicians fit into the movement?

Musicians have a responsibility because they can have access to the microphone. We have access to the media – whether that is official or independent media. That is a big chance – a lot of people cannot do it. The musician has to earn money and show another way out.

The only revolution I believe in is the revolution in the neighbourhood. It is the only place where we can change things. At the level of the state we can demonstrate as much as we like, but unless it is really massive we cannot change anything.

But in the neighbourhoods we can change minds and bring different cultures together. I believe in that.

When you’re travelling do you try to make contact with the different struggles?

At first we used to be interested and go to see what happened. But now people come to us. When we are in a town people come and say, ‘Hey Manu, there’s a strike – can you come?’

There are so many problems and strikes that I cannot say yes to everybody. If you go to Argentina the schedule is impossible. You have to choose. It’s terrible.

Blockade Barcelona – Globalise Resistance is organising a coach to the protest in Barcelona in March, leaving London on the morning of Wednesday 13 March. Tickets cost £85/£75 concessions. Phone 020 8980 3005 or email [email protected]


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