Thursday, May 6

From Gulabi Aankhein to Despacito: Manu Chao jams with city’s slum kids

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Md Afsar is currently busy with his Madhyamik exams. None of the theorems he prepared for was part of the maths question paper on Monday. “It’s pure sad, I will lose five marks,” rued the teenager who had to appear for the physics exam next morning. But despite all the academic pressure, Afsar excitedly reached the shabby community centre at a Topsia slum to “meet the people coming from a faraway land”. Not just Afsar, a whole group of children who take guitar classes there once a week had the time of their lives when Spanish-French singer Manu Chao came calling along with percussionist Mauro Mancebo, guitarist Luciano Falico and sound engineer Gerard Casajus during their recent Kolkata trip.


Seeing Manu and Luciano carry two small stringed instruments, Bappa, a young music student, asked, “Is this the guitalele?” Putting his curiosity to rest, Manu replied, “These are just guitars. It’s easier to travel with small guitars, you see.”

This was followed by an impromptu jamming session that saw the duo strum and sing with so much gusto that the little ones almost forgot it was time to return home. While Manu and his friends sang Spanish songs, the audience lapped it up, proving music has no boundary. In fact, Bappa even managed to impress the guests with his strumming.


“You played so fast, it seemed you didn’t even touch the guitar!” exclaimed Anwar, another local boy. “With practice, you too can play like us,” Manu told him, adding, “I just learnt three or four chords initially and I’ve been touring with that. Perseverance is the key word. You don’t need to practice for hours every day, but you’ll have to practice daily. That’s important. Now, please sing for us.”

As Anwar started singing Zindagi Kuch Toh Bata, Manu and Luciano strummed on their guitars. On Anwar’s rendition of Gulabi Aankhein, the duo amped up their act. “I never imagined we’ll hear them play the guitar with Bollywood tracks someday,” said Amitabha Palit, who travels from Krishnanagar to Kolkata every week to give guitar lessons to the young batch.


Manu, who clearly enjoyed every bit of the time spent there, was seen playing and singing with the kids throughout. “One more?” he asked after completing a song and the children cheered saying, “Three more!” In no mood to disappoint the children, the legendary musician sang to their hearts’ content and in no time, the audience started humming to Manu’s Latin songs. “Language is not a problem. Even at last night’s concert, I saw people enjoying the tune,” said Manu, who performed at Prinsep Ghat on Sunday and at a city pub on Tuesday. “Pub is still classic music. The one that we sang in the open (Prinsep Ghat) was more fun. Not just the musicians, but all sorts of people came for that, and I thoroughly enjoyed it,” he said. The gigs were hosted in association with Alliance Francaise du Bengale and Calcutta Classical Guitar Society.

But does he listen to Indian music, we asked. “Of course. This might sound strange but whenever I wish to calm down, I listen to Kabir’s song. It instantly does the trick,” said Manu.


As the evening drew to a close and the musicians began to bid adieu, pat came a request from one of the young fans. “Despacito please,” said someone from the crowd, following which Luciano immediately took his tiny guitar out and started strumming as Manu joined him in the roadside soiree as their car waited. Finally, the goodbyes came with signed plectrums being distributed to the youngsters, who will not forget this day in a hurry.

His journey to stardom

Manu Chao, a Spanish-French musician, sings in seven languages, including Spanish, French, English, Italian, Galician (north-west of Spain), and Portuguese. Extremely popular in Latin America, he began his music career as a busker. Content of his music focuses on love, social justice and unified humanity. Music enthusiasts are of the opinion that Manu follows the tradition of Bob Marley.


Source: Times of India

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