THE SEEDS (1978-1985)
The seed of Maná sprouted in the 80’s in the Mexican city of Guadalajara, when a group of ambitious teenagers with a bongo started a band called Sombrero Verde. The band began by playing covers from the groups they admired (Beatles, Stones, Led Zeppelin and The Police) but eventually dared to write their own rock, which reflected their Latin roots and was written in Spanish, even before this practice became commonplace. This is how Fernando Olvera and the Calleros brothers (Ulises, Juan Diego and Abraham), along with Gustavo Orozco, fed an evolving scene in their native city and in the region. A couple of recordings with the Ariola and Fonovisa record labels show the freshness of their music, a characteristic that Maná has kept throughout their successful career.
Looking to renew their image, the band adopts the name Maná, under which they would gain international recognition. With Fher Olvera as their singer and the Calleros brothers, Juan and Ulises, on bass and guitar respectively, the line up was completed with the addition of a young and talented drummer, Alex González, of Cuban-Colombian origin. The name Maná was chosen because of the significance it has in the Polynesian language: “Positive Energy,” not precisely for its biblical connotations. Nonetheless, the change did seem as though it was heaven sent, as it enabled them to reach a level of professionalism they had previously been denied.
In 1986, Maná signs a record deal with Poligram and a new era begins with the release of their self-titled debut album, which becomes an important part of a musical movement called “Rock en Tu Idioma” [Rock In Your Language]. This helped open doors for music written in Spanish and proposed a novel alternative to a scene typically dominated by music in English. Despite achieving some success, this first recording as Maná did not satisfy the band. In talking with record labels, the band had to defend their sound and identity, which was too often affected by the commercial interests of the label. It was a time when the music scene was dominated by prefabricated bands that were subject to what many executives from the industry thought the audience wanted to hear. But Maná stayed true to their sound, insisting on diverse alternate venues, until finally Warner Music became interested in them.
FALTA AMOR (1989-91)
With the 90’s came essential changes. Fher and Alex knew the risks involved in putting themselves into the hands of a producer that saw bands as products rather than as an artistic proposition, which is why they opted for a different road that they had not previously traveled: they took over the production of their albums. With this idea in mind, they recorded the album Falta Amor, but it did not succeed until a year after its release and after Maná toured the country giving more than 350 concerts. Finally, the single “Rayando el Sol” became the first successful hit for Maná and allowed them to introduce other songs to the public, such as “Perdido en un Barco,” “Estoy Agotado” and Buscándola”. These later songs quickly gained immense popularity, and awarded Maná their first Gold Record in Mexico. As if this success wasn’t enough, the group found themselves in Ecuador, in a sold-out stadium where 18,000 people sang the lyrics to songs that were still not well known in their own country.
¿DÓNDE JUGARAN LOS NIÑOS? (1992-94)
In 1992, Maná undergoes another change in their lineup with the departure of Ulises Calleros, who has since become the band’s manager. This gave way to the arrival of two new members, keyboard player Iván González and guitarist César “Vampiro” López. With this new composition they recorded ¿Dónde Jugaran los Niños? in Los Angeles. The album that was a breakthrough in the history of the band, as well as in Rock In Español, with sales of over one million units and a total of eight singles in the charts in Spanish-speaking America. These singles were “Vivir Sin Aire,” “Cómo Te Deseo,” “Oye Mi Amor,” “Cómo Diablos,” “Te Lloré Un Río” and “Me Vale,” songs that are now classics in their repertoire. After that, they started a world tour, offering 268 concerts in more than 17 countries including the Americas, Spain and Switzerland, where they were invited to participate in the prestigious Montreaux Festival. By 1994, due to professional and artistic differences, Iván González and César López left the band.
MANÁ EN VIVO (1994)
Now as a trio, Fher, Alex and Juan Diego gave a series of concerts in the United States, with the goal of making a live recording that would reflect all the power and energy of the group, accomplished in a double album called Maná En Vivo. The production included the collaboration of Gustavo Orozco on guitars, Sheila Ríos on background vocals and Juan Carlos Toribio, who still plays keyboards with the group live and in the studio.
CUANDO LOS ÁNGELES LLORAN (1995-96)
Anxious to return to their original quartet format, Maná auditioned guitar players from different countries, until in Aguascalientes, México they finally found the talent they were looking for in the guitarist Sergio Vallín, whose amazing sensibility, technique and versatility imparted a different shine to the sound of the guitars on the bands recordings. With this new line up, Maná recorded and released the album Cuando Los Ángeles Lloran, where there is an apparent evolution in the sound and lyrics of the band. With demos recorded in Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta, the album was actually produced in Los Angeles and gave them their first Grammy Nomination, the most important award in the music industry. In this album the following singles are included: “Déjame Entrar,” “No Ha Parado de Llover” and “Hundido En Un Rincón”. The album’s tour included four sold-out concerts at Radio City Music Hall in New York, and had them playing in Puerto Rico, a country where Salsa and tropical rhythms are preferred and where Maná’s presence culminated in a boom for rock groups.
SELVA NEGRA FOUNDATION (1995—UNTIL NOW)
The problems of the environment have always been one of the worries of Maná, including many themes related to the ecological crisis that the planet is experiencing. But it’s not enough to just say or declare it; we have to take these matters in our own hands (all of humanity) because world governments cannot do it alone. For Maná, going from saying it to doing it, with regards to preserving the planet, consisted of creating The Selva Negra Foundation, which collaborates actively with governments to guarantee our kids a livable planet. There is a lot more to do, and Maná is an organization that does not like to sit idle during rough times. Since its creation, Selva Negra has financed and supported many important projects in favor of a healthier environment.
SUEÑOS LIQUIDOS (1997-98)
This album was born of the desire to create an environment where water, a vital element, has an important presence. Because of this, the record was created in front of the sea in Puerto Vallarta, an important location in the creative atlas of Maná. An endless number of sunsets in front of the ocean were the perfect place to write Sueños Liquidos, an album produced by Fher and Alex with Benny Faccone. The result was an energetic mixture of rock and Latin rhythms that go from Bossanova to Flamenco and pass through the Caribbean cadence of Reggae. Important singles like “El Muelle de San Blas”, “Hechicera” and “Clavado en un Bar” are part of this album. For the first time in the history of the band, the new record had a simultaneous worldwide release in 36 countries. Also for the first time, they won a Grammy Award. The album was played extensively in the United States and Maná became the first Rock in Español band that performed on the Regis and Kathy Lee Show, a leading program of American TV.
TODO MANÁ (1999)
Having conquered Spanish-speaking America, Maná still had to triumph in Spain. Therefore, in 1999 they recorded a compilation of their best songs, which was released exclusively in the Iberia peninsula. The record prepared the ground so that, one year later, Maná’s success crossed the borders of Spain.
CORAZÓN ESPINADO (1999)
At the end of 1998, Fher received a call from someone who claimed to be Carlos Santana. At first he thought it was a joke, but once his caller’s identity was confirmed, the band received an invitation that would have unequivocal results: collaborating on a song on the Supernatural album [of duets] that gave worldwide success to the guitarist born in Jalisco, after a period of seven years without recording any new studio albums. Maná collaborated on “Corazón Espinado”, a song written by Fher that is one of the singles of an album that has a record of nine Grammy Awards. The recording was released in 50 countries and allowed Maná to be known in European, Asian and Middle Eastern countries. Next they went on an extensive tour of Mexico and the United States called “Jalisco Power.” United on stage were two of the biggest rock artists from the land south of the border: Carlos Santana and Maná. Together they played at that year’s Grammy Awards and on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, one of the most popular shows in the United States.
MTV UNPLUGGED (1999-2000)
After much insistence, Maná decided to accept MTV’s proposition and produced a record and DVD with acoustic versions of their best songs, recorded in a relaxed and intimate environment. The result was Unplugged, one of the best sellers of the video channel’s series, including those released by English speaking artists. For this Unplugged album Maná received two Grammy Awards and consolidated their position in Spain, where they sold-out Plaza las Ventas, the prestigious bullring in Madrid, many times over. They then took the band to Caracas, Venezuela, where they shared a stage and started a fruitful friendship with Rubén Blades.
GRANDES MANÁ (2001)
This compilation was produced with the objective of entering the Italian and German markets, countries where the language barrier has been an obstacle to their music and where they played only in small venues. The strategy produced results a couple of years later.
SI ELLA ME FALTARA UNA VEZ (2001)
Invited by the famous Cuban singer songwriter Pablo Milanes, Fher collaborated in an album of duets called Mi Querido Pablo, on which he and the Cuban singer sang the song “Si Ella Me Faltara Alguna Vez”.
REVOLUCIÓN DE AMOR (2002-03)
In an effort to blend the essence of their sound with the sound of 60’s and 70’s rock, Maná recorded Revolución de Amor, where they used instruments and technology from those decades cleverly balanced by the modern platforms of digital sound. The result was a collection of energetic recordings, with a sound that favors the guitars but does not negate exploration and fusion. From this record, which won another Grammy Award, one can hear the following singles: “Ángel de Amor,” “Mariposa Traicionera” and “Eres Mi Religión,” the latter song released in 2001, as a duet with Zucchero, for the Italian market. Also, Maná received an invitation from the popular Italian singer to play a special version of “Baila Morena”. That same year they were invited to perform in the charity concert Pavarotti & Friends where they shared a stage with Queen, Deep Purple, Ricky Martin, Andrea Boccelli, Zucchero and Bono, with whom they particularly identified through a shared interest in social issues. Subsequently, it was time for a tour, which was to become the most ambitious of Maná’s to date, involving 250 massive concerts with phenomenal lighting and audio quality. In a tour that covered 24 countries, the concert was played out in the best venues of the world, including, for the first time, important stages in Rome, Río de Janeiro and Hamburg.
MANÁ ESENCIALES (2004)
At the beginning of 2004, the band released a special compilation of three records called Maná Esenciales, with remastered versions of all the unforgettable songs of the band including the unreleased song, “Te Llevaré al Cielo.”
ACCESO TOTAL (2004)
While Maná takes a sabbatical to recharge after twelve years of uninterrupted tours and recordings, they release a DVD that documents in detail all the energy seen on stage. The document is produced by filming complete tours and offers the best live versions of their songs, illustrated by footage taken from the best stages of the world, while at the same time allowing the viewer to go backstage and see the group in their natural medium: the concerts.
AMAR ES COMBATIR (2006)
The most recent recording of Maná was done at the prestigious studio The Hit Factory Miami. The album offers 13 songs that, with a full and impeccable sound, respect the essence of the group but veers into new territory. This characteristic of renewal has allowed Maná to maintain their vitality beyond current fashions and trends. Renew or die; nothing holds truer.