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The Train of Ice and Fire: Mano Negra in Colombia

by Ramon Chao, translated by Ann Wright - £8.99  Route Publishing (2010)
paperback    ISBN 13: 9781901927443 | ISBN 10: 190192744x

"'Maybe it was the best adventure I ever had."
(Manu Chao)
Colombia, November 1993: a reconstructed old passenger train, bespangled with yellow butterflies, is carrying one hundred musicians, acrobats and artists on a daring adventure through the heart of a country soaked in violence. The intention is to put on free shows for locals at railway stations along the way: vibrant spectacles involving music, trapeze, tattoo-art, an ice museum and, star of the show, Roberto the fire-breathing dragon. Leading this crusade of hope is Manu Chao with his band Mano Negra.

Ramon Chao is on board to chronicle the journey. As the train climbs 1,000 kilometres from Santa Marta on the Caribbean Coast to Bogotá in the Altiplano, Ramón keeps one eye on the fluctuating morale of the train's eccentric cargo, and the other on the ever-changing physical and social landscape. As the papa of the train, he endures personal discomfort, internal strife, derailments, stowaways, disease, guerrillas and paramilitaries. When the train arrives in Aracataca, the real-life Macondo of One Hundred Years of Solitude, Mano Negra disintegrates, leaving Manu to pick up the pieces with those determined to see this once-in-a-lifetime adventure through to the end.

The Train of Ice and Fire is a book about hope and dreams in troubled times. It is about a father accompanying his son through an experience which will change his life. But most of all it is about Colombia, the flora, the fauna, the history, the politics and, more than any of that, it is a book about people.

(Price & availability last checked: October 2018)

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In booklists: World Music, Music, Politics & Activism, Performance Art & Street Theatre, Colombia,
In categories: Music & Performing Arts, Changing the World, Arts & Creativity, World - Latin America & Caribbean,

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