Mana is all about 'Love'
By Joanne Suh
LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- One of Latin America's most successful rock bands says it's time for a revolution.
Grammy winners Mana are hoping to forge their own "Revolucion de Amor" ("Revolution of Love") with their first studio album in five years. And they say the time is right, given the troubling times facing the world.
Fusing pop, rock, reggae, ska, Afro-Cuban rhythms and Latin sounds, the Mexican foursome is joined by legendary artists Carlos Santana and Ruben Blades on its latest effort.
Described by critics as the "U2 of Latin rock," Mana is working to expand its fan base into mainstream America and abroad, playing European countries beyond Spain for the first time this year.
The group formed in the mid 1980s and has undergone a few personnel changes. Early albums, including "Donde Jugaran los Ninos" (1992) and "Cuando Los Angeles Lloran" (1995), helped launch Mana's popularity in the Latin community.
Mana is made up of lead singer Fher Olvera, drummer Alex Gonzalez, guitarist Sergio Vallin, and bassist Juan Calleros. CNN recently sat down with them in Los Angeles to talk about their new album.
CNN: Why did you decide to call your new album "Revolucion de Amor"?
GONZALEZ: Right now, the world is going through a very chaotic time. And we need to change that negative energy and bring it in a positive way. You take these two words -- "love," which is probably the strongest word in the universe, which is right now what the world needs most -- and "revolution," which actually means evolution. So we're just trying to make a positive revolution, as loving more your parents, loving more your country, loving more the planet, loving more your peers, your neighbor. So I think if Mana can bring to the table positive messages in such hard times, I think it's a good way of people forgetting all these terrible issues that are going on and finding something positive in our music. ...
We've been seeing so much technology -- Internet, computers, amazing inventions, you know? But at the same time, we're in the 21st century and we're still as primitive as ever as far as human relationships go. We're still killing one another, we're still fighting over religion, we're still fighting over land. It's sad, it's sad that we can't change, but we have hope that people can change.
CNN: It seems with this album, you're making a big push to impact the U.S. market, true?
GONZALEZ: The cool thing is that we think it's important to share our culture, that's why we're still doing it in Spanish. I mean Mana could've done an English album years ago, but it's not about marketing or sales or anything like that. It's more about sharing your culture, sharing your philosophy, your ideals, your music.
OLVERA: If someday, Mana do some translations about our songs, it's because we want to share some issues that for us are important. Not everybody speaks Spanish, so if you want to get across these messages to the heart of the people, we have to do some things in English. We have no problem with that. It's going to be in that way you know -- to share our culture, what a Latino thinks, dreams, et cetera.
CNN: Who are your musical influences?
GONZALEZ: Our school of rock and roll comes from the great bands from the '60s, '70s, like the Beatles, Stones, Led Zeppelin, U2.
OLVERA: Led Zeppelin.
GONZALEZ: Led Zeppelin. (laugh) Police. Those are our mentors. Bob Marley. Celia Cruz, I'm serious. Ruben Blades, Carlos Santana. Those are our teachers, our masters.
CNN: How has Mana's music evolved over the last five years since the last studio album?
GONZALEZ: We took a year off actually last year after a decade of working so hard. And we looked back to see all the things we had done and where we wanted to go and where we wanted to bring our fans along with us on this new ride which is this new album, "Revolucion de Amor." So this album is a very honest album in all the senses -- musically, lyrically. It's an album that is played and is written more from the soul, and we just went in and had fun doing this album. I think when people hear it, they can feel the honesty.
CNN: Tell me about the first single, "Angel de amor."
GONZALEZ: Well this song, the music, Fher and I, we wrote it in one day. That's how spontaneous this album is. We didn't think about things that much, we just did whatever came out. And Fher ... the interesting thing is on this song, he touches on the situation of sexual harassment, which in Latin America, there's these alarming figures of like eight out of every 10 women have had a terrible sexual harassment experience in their lives. We think it's important to discuss these issues.
The video, it's a very explicit video in the sense that you can tell that we're talking about this. We wanted to also support the Mexican movie industry so we shot it in film, 35 mm, with some very important movie actors from Mexico. It's almost like a short film. So we were very happy with the video and the single is a very strong song.
CNN: What are you most proud of with the new record?
OLVERA: This is a record that we did without thinking too much but thinking with the heart. It's a record also that doesn't go so much for the technology because sometimes if you use so much technology, you take the human side of the music you know? Music is made for humans and should sound human.