By Jacob Katel
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In 2006, Latin pop-rock powerhouse Maná had been recording and touring nonstop for more than 20 years. And it was time for a break. So the band took a five-year hiatus to prepare 2011's Drama y Luz (Drama and Light) before returning to the touring grind.
Back on the road for nearly two years, the Mexican crew hasn't slowed a bit. Frontman Fher Olvera, drummer Alex González, and the rest continue to circle the globe and climb the charts to a steady, soft-rock beat. And this week, Maná concludes its Drama y Luz world tour at the American Airlines Arena, following sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden and L.A.'s Staples Center.
To commemorate the occasion, here's a look at the past few years in the life of Maná.
The Production. On its website, Maná boasts about spending "1,000 days" and "1,001 nights" recording Drama y Luz. The studio work began in June 2008 as the band traveled to Los Angeles, Brazil, and Miami's own Hit Factory, laboring over the album's 12 tracks. And in addition to the usual mix of drum, bass, and guitars, Maná employed a 32-piece string and horn section to bring lush theatrical grandeur to songs such as "El Espejo" ("The Mirror"), a rocking ballad about the forbidden love affair between a nun and a priest during the Spanish Inquisition. Yes, these tunes are the sonic equivalent of a big-budget telenovela.
The Drama. Halfway through the production of the album, Fher's mother succumbed to cancer. Soon after, the notoriously private star wrote the lovely ballad "Vuela Libre la Paloma" ("The Dove Flies Free"), thanking his "angel de la guarda" ("guardian angel") and promising never to forget her. In recent interviews, Fher has explained that the loss of his mother changed the direction of the project. Originally titled Los Árboles Mueren de Pie (The Trees Die Where They Stand), it was envisioned as a concept album focusing on the environment. But instead, the record became Drama y Luz, a pop-rock meditation on human struggles and feelings of loss in these hard economic times.
The Light. The first single, "Lluvia al Corazón" ("Rain to the Heart"), tells the story of a butterfly in a hurricane while proclaiming the power of love to change the world. The warm, fuzzy timbre of Fher's voice over a U2-lite guitar riff has a calming effect that kind of makes you think it might work. And with five million fans on Facebook, three consecutive Latin Billboard number one hits, double-platinum sales, and a Best Latin Rock Album Grammy in 2011, Maná seems to have convinced the rest of the world too.
The Politics. Not even rock stars are safe from xenophobia. Guitarist Sergio Vallín has told Univision's Jorge Ramos about how he was racially intimidated by a neighbor at his new house in Los Angeles. And Miami-born Alex González, whose parents hail from Cuba and Colombia, revealed that even in South Florida he gets funny looks when he tells people that his wife is Mexican. So in "Latinoamérica," a duet he co-wrote with Fher, the drummer calls on all Latinos to unite. "If they want to marginalize us, we'll never let them," the chorus insists.
The Tour. Whatever message Maná proclaims, 30,000 fans will fill arenas to hear it. On the first leg of the band's tour, it packed stadiums to capacity from Caracas to Madrid. Last month, it set a record with 11 sold-out shows at L.A.'s Staples Center, earning the venue a new nickname — La Casa de Maná. And this Friday, the Mexican rock crew will conquer Miami. Just listen to that steady, soft-rock beat.