The sounds of my neighborhood, Cypress Park, remind me of Manu Chao; a mixture of cultures clashing about on the streets -- police sirens, the bell ringing from a paletero’s ice cream cart, children playing in the streets, Sonidero blasting out of a big truck, teenage punk bands practicing in garages and loud TV’s trying to drown it all out. It all mixes together, creating its own symphony, much like Manu Chao's music, which is rooted in what bands like The Clash started. It is reggae influenced punk rock mixed with various influences picked up while traveling the world. While The Clash discovered America, Manu Chao found kinship in Latin America. In his music you can hear the Nueva Trova influences from South America. You can hear all the nights hanging out, drinking and playing every record from the Fania, Trojan and Disco Fuentes catalog. You can hear the influence of touring with such great bands like Tijuana No!, Maldita Vecindad and Negu Gorriak while he was in the band Mano Negra.
In all that, you can still hear his voice come through all the influences.
On Saturday, Manu Chao played The Sport Arena, located in the heart of South L.A. on MLK and Figueroa. The Sports Arena is rarely used now that the Staple Center is around a few miles away in the newly gentrified part of downtown Los Angeles. The only other show I've seen at The Sports Arena was Notorious B.I.G. (Biggie Smalls) -- The Wu Tang Clan and Ice Cube opened the show and absolutely rocked the spot. When it was time for Biggie to go on, a massive fight started and LAPD came in riot gear and the show ended early. A year later Biggie was dead and I never got my chance to see him perform.