Manu Chao’s Unusual Concert in Buenos Aires

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manu-chao_001373_mainpicture.jpgThis month in Buenos Aires, Manu Chao joined La Colifata for a live radio broadcast. La Colifata is the radio station run by patients at the Borda Hospital – a psychiatric hospital. There was a rumor that Manu would be playing a live show at the hospital, and since he’s done it once before during a visit to Buenos Aires, it seemed worth checking out.

I’d never been to a psychiatric hospital (I swear) and imagined a Jack Nicholson moment out of “One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest.” We entered the complex through security and followed groups of people who looked like Manu fans. We walked down a dirt path deep into the complex before we heard music and amplified voices coming from a clearing behind the hospital. Finally, we joined a crowd of people in a semi-circle at the center of which was the man himself, seated, playing an acoustic guitar.

20050814elpepspor_4.jpg Playing guitar

A laptop on a table seemed to function as radio console and a host held a microphone up for Manu to sing into while he played. He’d play a tune between readings and performances by residents of El Borda. The show went on for over two hours with spoken word, rapping, singing, and stand-up comedy by the patients.

There was a comraderie between the patients and Manu Chao with hugs and thanks all around. The performers were happy to share their own creative expression and the audience enjoyed their participation. They made jokes and shared intimate thoughts alike. Manu sat quietly for most of the time and smiled and encouraged the performers.

One really funny speaker read notes from all the patients – things they wanted to express to the crowd that day. It was a pleasant experience that actually felt a lot like summer camp for adults with mental health needs. There were some real characters and some talent from a radio show that has been around for over a decade.

Manu ChaoAt the end, a band and cameras came out to join Manu and film a video on site. There were horns, percussion, and a second guitar. The crowd of dreadlocks, mullets and Borda residents was super responsive and I got the sense it was just the inpiration Manu Chao needed to make for a great video. Leaving the campsite, I was glad the rain had held out and happy to have been a part of another unique experience in Buenos Aires.


Rojo on January 2, 08

Awesome, Manu Chau is one of the best human beens that i’ve known in my life.

Eve Hyman on January 7, 08

He’s a beautiful force.

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