Manuel Malou: Unomundo

Little Big World

Listening Post 180. Think global, act local. The mantra applies to government planning, the environment and business, but it’s also a defining feature of music—and few artists active today have embodied the concept longer than the French-Spanish singer-songwriter Manuel Malou. When he was eight he won a flamenco competition in Paris; as a teenager, he was in the vanguard of Spain’s post-Franco cultural awakening and, as part of Los Golfos, created an enduring catchphrase with the pop-flamenco hit ¿Qué pasa contigo, tío? (What’s Up, Dude?); in his twenties, he became a punk trendsetter. Malou’s early efforts at mix-matching places and sounds may have reflected circumstance more than design, but as a mature artist, moving between Spain, France and Colombia, weaving through some 20 albums as a solo and group artist, writing for himself and others and becoming an award-winning composer for film, his guiding passion has been rumba open to the four winds. His latest album, Unomundo (One World) is a monument to world rumba—with influences from raï, Bollywood, reggae, rock and funk—powering stories of love, wanderlust and leaders who compound rather than solve problems. The album covers a lot of ground: Title negation notwithstanding, No, No, No is about moving toward the horizon (video 1). Feet are as important to Malou’s music as voice and instruments, evident in the seductive Baylalo (Dance It, video 2). La Capillita (The Little Chapel) is a flamenco love letter to the artist’s mother. Musicians have always bridged cultures—flamenco itself echoes co-existence in medieval Iberia centuries after the marginalization or expulsion of its Roma, Jewish and Moorish creators. In a new age of hardening borders and distrust of migrants, Spain has emerged as one of Europe’s most welcoming nations, and Unomundo—honoring a home tradition while nurturing it with notes from afar—is a vibrant reminder that local and global are not opposite poles but layers of harmony. (Papi Records)

 

No, No, No
(from the Spanish lyrics)
Tired of the life I’m living, I can’t go on/I feel it: Time to leave
The hour has come to take flight/I trust that luck will go with me

Toward new horizons, where the sun shines/I’ll climb mountains, cross valleys, in search of warmth
Today I break the chains that bind my feet/With my guitar and four things I leave

Without looking back, I walk with steady stride/Savoring the gifts the future will provide
No mention of the past—no, no, no/Nor of everything that has hurt me—no, no, no
I’ve changed skin, to be born anew/I’ll re-invent myself a thousand and one times
I don’t need luggage—no, no, no/To undertake this trip—no, no, no

Cheerful path to my destination… my destiny/I’ll plant a field of flowers where I can rest
I’ll spread the seeds that I fertilize with my life/And I hope they flourish for you.

 

Baylalo/Dance It
When I’m near you/I can’t contain myself

I bite the forbidden fruit/Like Adam in Eden
Your sensual movement/Drives me crazy
I sing to you, surrendered at your feet

Dance it, look at me/Dance it, come closer
Your perfume makes me drunk
Dance it, dare to excite me/I am at the mercy of your desire

Leiloleilole, look at me, come closer/Leiloleilole, excite me
At your side I’ll never grow old

Your sensual movement/Drives me crazy
I sing to you

You are my sin/I can’t redeem myself
In the fires of hell/I’ll pay for my lust
There will be no salvation/I made a pact and signed it
I sing to you, surrendered at your feet

 

La Capillita
Virgin of the little chapel, tell me what’s wrong
Beautiful you are, my favorite among all women
I can’t bear to see you cry, what agony torments you?
The virgin of the little chapel is not a statue of clay
But my mother’s face when I see her praying

 

 

 


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