When someone asks, “What does Latin Rock sound like?” which bands or artists jump to your mind? Depending on your age, generation and location, you might be quick to think Soda Stereo, Miguel Mateos, Caifanes or maybe even Enanitos Verdes. But certainly and almost instinctively, among your list (and everyone’s) of Latin rock roots, Maná will be there. For some, they are icons in music history and for some; they are part of the soundtrack to their lives. Undisputedly, Maná is a band that holds a high place in Latin rock history and is still going strong these many years later.
It all started with a couple of hats…
Many may not know that these boys from Guadalajara, Mexico, began in 1975 as a cover band called The Spies of the Green Hats. José Fernando “Fher” Olvera, Gustavo Orozco, and the Calleros brothers: Juan, Diego, and Abraham; decided to break away with convention and swapped the English language cover songs they played for original material written and arranged by them in Spanish. To make it official, they changed their name to Sombrero Verde.
Now as Sombrero Verde, they recorded two albums between 1981 and 1983. As the years progressed, the band structure changed. Abraham Calleros’ departure led the band to place an ad in the local newspaper searching for a drummer. Just as destiny had planned, the new drummer for Sombrero Verde became Alex “El Animal” Gonzalez. His style and musical influences later became a key piece in the new sound the band would have as Maná. Guitarist Gustavo Orozco left the band in 1986. With his departure, Fher ended the Sombrero Verde era and embarked on a new journey with the four remaining members. The quartet would later be known as Maná, which signifies “positive energy” in Polynesian.
The years progressed and Maná began to gain fame. Their first two albums (Maná-1987 and Falta Amor-1990) spawned a series of notable singles, the most successful one, Rayando El Sol. It wasn’t until the early 90’s that Maná gained true success and respect as one of the top Latin rock acts in the market with the release and tour supporting the album ¿Dónde Jugarán los Niños? (which had a record eight back to back chart topping singles). Numerous lineup changes followed and ended with Sergio Vallín joining the band in 1995 as the new guitarist to record their fourth studio album, Cuando los Ángeles Lloran.
What’s all the Drama about?
Twenty some years later and stronger than ever, Maná has come back with their eighth studio album titled Drama Y Luz. The album released this past April 12th, contains eleven tracks that span from Fher’s signature harmonica on Amor Clandestino to more modern arrangements on tracks like Reina del Dolor and Envenéname. It also marks the first time the band has added string orchestra elements -arranged by guitarist Sergio Vallín and cellist Suzie Katayama- for the songs El Espejo, Sor María and El Dragón.
It’s no surprise that Drama Y Luz has been a labor of love. Originally, the album was scheduled for release during the 2010 Christmas season, but in a letter to their fans, the band said that “Drama Y Luz won’t be ready for the announced date; it’s like taking a cake out of the oven before it’s fully done.” In an interview at the 2011 Billboard Latin Music Conference in Miami, the band further elaborated by saying that “when you’re doing music, you’re doing art. It’s not like making shoes or sausage. It’s not a factory.”
Drama Y Luz is one of the darker albums in their career. Just by viewing the album’s artwork you can see the journey through darkness and light. It’s important to recognize that a Maná album wouldn’t be complete without social justice themes voiced through song. On Drama Y Luz, the cry for social justice is loudly voiced on the track Latinoamérica, composed by Alex González. This track is a call to all the Latinos throughout America to recognize that we are strong, capable and that we must never forget our history or our roots. Our passion is what makes us unique and from our past we must learn so we can face our future. Personally, it’s one of my favorite songs on the album because it has the perfect blend of passion, strength and rock and roll flair.
The Drama invades the District
Amid the press frenzy surrounding the album release, Maná announced the 2011 Drama Y Luz World Tour to begin on June 16th in San Juan, Puerto Rico. On July 14th, they will be stopping at the George Mason Patriot Center where we can expect great surprises for their stage and song selections. The band has said that this tour will feature a massive stage production that is currently being designed by the Spaniard, Luis Pastor. If the video for Lluvia Al Corazón is any indication of how the stage design will be, expect lots of lights, monitors, glitz and glam.
As per request of Alex, Fher, Sergio and Juan, tickets will not exceed $100.00 and will be fixed prices throughout the tour dates and locations. Ticket prices will be within the same range as those for the last tour, almost 7 years ago. One more piece of evidence on how much Maná respects and appreciates the support from their fans.
So go ahead and get your tickets, get yourself a Fher Special (grapefruit juice, lime juice, tequila and seltzer water) and gear up for one of the summer’s hottest and most anticipated shows to hit the greater Northern Virginia area.