Spaniard-turned-Italian spreads the (zany) word

The growing alternative latin-reggae scene, much of it hailing from the Continent, particularly France and Spain, has produced some of pop music’s finer cases of fervent song over the past decade. Two prime examples are Les Negresses Vertes and the now-defunct act Mano Negra, whose frontman Manu Chao is currently enjoying a phenomenally successful solo career. One of the more recent additions to this expanding guild, whose infectious and occasionally zany material is steadily gaining popularity in pop markets around the world, is Tonino Carotone, who will be returning to Greece less than a year after his first visit for three shows this week. Though he has only recently begun enjoying greater exposure in markets beyond his home territory, Carotone – a Spaniard who has stylized himself as a Latino artist with a fictitious name intended to pay homage to a veteran Italian artist, Renato Carosone, and Italian song itself – has been around for quite some time as a member of various outfits. His musical roots date back to the early 1980s, as an active member of Spain’s punk scene. For years Carotone, who was known as Tonin in his earlier days, spent his time performing on Spain’s musical periphery alongside other similar-minded, punk-influenced acts such as Les Hot Pants, a hard-edged rockabilly act that was fronted by Chao before his fame began spreading throughout Europe and Latin America with Mano Negra. Chao, in fact, has played an instrumental role in helping Carotone’s recent rise in popularity abroad by collaborating both on stage and in the studio. Besides performing numerous shows together, Chao has also produced material off Carotone’s most recent album, Mondo Dificile, an outing that has proven particularly popular in Spain, Italy, and France, as well as certain Latin American countries such as Argentina and Mexico. A colorful, controversial character, to say the least, Carotone’s material is playful, lively, often vulgar, and usually anti-conformist. At times, he has paid the price. Several years ago Carotone served a prison sentence for opposing military service through his work with a band called Kojon Prieto. Carotone had written one of the band’s biggest hits, Insumision (The Draft Dodge), which blatantly rejected conscription. It became a major hit in Italy and was covered by numerous other bands there. But the jail sentence, which lasted a year, was not a sheer waste of time for Carotone. While serving, he kept writing new material and also learnt how to play guitar. Carotone’s draft-dodging lifestyle led him to various parts of Europe before he settled in Barcelona in 1998. The move came to establish Carotone’s ties with Chao, who operates his own studio in the Spanish city. Without a doubt one of the alternative latin-reggae circuit’s more radical figures, Carotone has come to add further spice to an already frenzied, highly entertaining scene, one that is now beginning to break language barriers and cross over into various markets around the world, including those of English-speaking nations that, generally speaking, have proven inaccessible to acts from the Continent. Thursday (8/11), Hydrogeios Club, Thessaloniki; Friday (9/11), Foundation of the Hellenic World, 254 Pireos St., Tavros; Sunday (11/11), Mylos Club, Larissa.

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