Manu Chao, 1998

Who was Francisco Franco? How did Manu Chao's parents' fleeing from Franco shape Chao's worldview?

According to Chao, "Clandestino" is about modern-day problems associated with borders and immigration. What are these problems to Chao? Where does he think these problems are especially focused?

How is the experience of traveling to Tijuana or Gibraltar different for different visitors?

What similarities do you see between the different immigrant groups that Chao names in the song?

"Clandestino" performed by Manu Chao on Clandestino, © 1998. Available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.


For more information on Manu Chao, visit The official video may be viewed on YouTube.

Rights have not been secured to reprint the words for this song. Please consult this online source (Spanish)

Manu Chao
Manu Chao

Manu Chao (b. 1961) was born Jose-Manuel Thomas Arthur Chao in Paris. His parents, who had fled the dictatorship of Francisco Franco in Spain, inspired him to pursue a life of political activism. Throughout the late 1970s Chao and his friends were increasingly influenced by American rock and roll, reggae, and punk rock, and they began to use musical performance as a weapon to battle injustice.

Chao's first band, Les Hot Pants, was formed in the early 1980s. In 1987 the group transformed into Mano Negra (Black Hand), assuming the name of a nineteenth-century Andalusian anarchist group. In addition to Chao the group consisted of his brother, Tonio, on trumpet, and cousin Santiago Casariego on drums. With its combination of a variety of styles, including rock, rap, flamenco, punk, reggae, and rai, Mano Negra was commercially successful. The group's multilingual performances appealed to global audiences and their songs leaned toward socio-politically inspired texts. Mano Negra disbanded shortly after releasing their final album (Casa Babylon) in 1994.

As the bandmembers went separate ways Chao became a wanderer, traveling around the world and gradually creating his solo album, Clandestino, on his laptop. The album addresses problems associated with immigration. Chao has said,

  When you travel a lot, you feel that there are certain places in the world that are hot points. Tijuana is one of them. It's a symbol of the biggest problem at the end of the century: the border and problems of immigration. On the record I talk a lot about Gibraltar, a hot point between Africa and Europe. Tijuana is a hot point between the United States and South America. They have the same kind of problems, and you can feel the condensation of the troubles of the world there. Tijuana is a place of contradiction. For a lot of people coming from South America trying to cross the border, it can be like a kind of jail. And for the northern side, you come there just to have a good time. That's the hypocrisy of this border: from one side it's so easy to cross over, just to have fun one night, see some prostitutes, get drunk, spend your money, and on the other side it's completely the opposite. (Quoted in Kun)

The album's title song, "Clandestino," reflects Chao's concerns about borders. As he explains,

  I wrote ["Clandestino"] about the border between Europe and those coming from poorer nations. Look around—maybe 30% of the people in this street are clandestino [illegal]. It's a decade since I wrote it, and things have gotten worse. The Berlin Wall came down and we all cheered, but now walls are going up: Palestine, the U.S., the E.U. Look at the number of people who die trying to cross from Africa into Europe. (Quoted in Cartwright)



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