Named in honor of an Andalucian anarchist group, Mano Negra emerged from the same Parisian artists' scene which also gave rise to the like-minded Les Negresses Vertes, drawing equal influence from the punk ethos of the Clash and the multitude of sounds and rhythms endemic to the global music community.
Formed in 1986 from the remnants of the neo-rockabilly unit the Hot Pants, Mano Negra essentially consisted of vocalist Manu Chao, his trumpeter brother Tonio and drummer cousin Santiago Casiriego, Spanish natives who fused rock, rap, flamenco and rai to create a heady brew they dubbed "Patchanka," a name derived from a Spanish pejorative for dancehall music. Mano Negra's debut LP, also titled Patchanka, appeared in 1988, scoring the French indie hit "Mala Vida."
The record's success led to a contract with Virgin, which in 1989 issued the group's sophomore effort Puta's Fever (Dominican slang for a sexually-transmitted disease caught from a prostitute), increasing the band's visibility abroad as well as establishing them as France's most popular alternative act. While 1991's King of Bongo attempted to broaden their Anglo fanbase via the inclusion of several English-language tracks, but their focus quickly turned to South America when in 1992 they embarked on the "Cargo Tour," travelling to a series of port cities to perform on a stage built into their ship's hold. Mano Negra returned the following year, this time journeying by rail from Colombia's Caribbean coast to the capital city of Bogotá, giving free concerts at stations en route. Latin influences dominated 1994's Casa Babylon, which proved to be the group's final record; Manu Chao later resurfaced in Radio Bemba, and released his first solo album (Clandestino) in 1998. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi