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In the video for Barcelona-born Dani "Macaco" Carbonell's song "Sideral," a quote by Polish philosopher Stanislaw Jerzy Lec scrolls across the screen. "We should learn languages, including the ones that do not exist," it reads in various tongues, such as Korean, Russian, and English. The singer-songwriter, it's evident, is deeply concerned with real exchange among the world's people.
"The only thing that I believe in this life is that communication can save the world," he says by phone from his hometown. "As musicians, we have a mission of communicating through the music."
For his own message, Macaco draws from the sounds he grew up with, as well as those from beyond. "My influence comes from rumba catalana, the music of my grandparents, so I believe I am a mix of that and also of reggae; singers like [Bob] Marley and Peter Tosh have caused a huge impact," he explains. "Rumba catalana, rumba Latina, and reggae music have a great connection. You play the guitar a bit slower, and it becomes reggae; it's somehow very close although the origins are very far [from each other]."
Like fellow multilingual, unclassifiable world music star Manu Chao, Macaco writes lyrics in numerous languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, and Catalan, the regional dialect of Barcelona. "Touring all around the world in countries like Brazil, Germany, England, and France, I wanted to give each of these places a little present when it came to make the CD," he says of Ingravitto, his fifth and latest solo album, released last year.
Although this tour marks Macaco's first jaunt stateside as a solo artist, it's not his first musical experience here. In his long-gone hard rock days, he worked with Robert Trujillo, Metallica's Mexican-American bass player. But most famously, Macaco was a member of Ojos de Brujo, a flamenco/hip-hop/fusion act that gained worldwide popularity with its 2002 album, Barí. In the meantime, though, he has been touring Europe extensively, and plans to leave his current stage show intact for American audiences.
"Though the music that I make is very local, it is also very international, and I think it works in every place," he says. "We try to communicate with images, with moving, and with the music in the way that the lyrics are not so important."
The members of his nine-piece group hail from Spain, Brazil, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, and Cuba; one bandmate also serves as a VJ, creating a live interaction between the musicians and a screen of changing images. "It's more than a song after a song; it's a show with some parts that you can dance to, some parts that you can watch, some parts that you can jump to, or look at the screen," Macaco says. "I think it's a pretty original concept."
And nothing is scripted. "Sometimes I stop the concert and the DJ puts on some bass on the record and we like to do some freestyle; sometimes when I am performing, I like to invite someone to join us. I like to improvise un poquito, but this is something that I never plan."
"Lo importante," he concludes, "es comunicarse."