Maná: The Band

Mexico's Super Rockers

Mana
Mana.

Perhaps one of the most successful and recognizable Latin bands to venture into the "rock en Espanol" genre were a group out of Mexico called Maná, consisting of Fher Olvera as lead vocalist, Juan Diego Calleros on bass guitar, Sergio Vallin on lead guitar and Alex Gonzalez on the drums.

In the 1980s while the world was listening to and performing rock, Latin bands were still tentatively approaching the genre; although there were abundant rock lovers all over the Latin-speaking world, Latin bands were still finding their way through the music while primarily performing covers of popular English-language hits.

The music that became known as ‘rock en Espanol’ was incubating as Latin rockers started composing original songs performed in Spanish with lyrics that told of their own experience, and Maná became the first band to make it big in the genre.

Early Days: From Sombrero Verde to Mana

It’s tough to think of anything that goes together as well as rock and teenage boys. Guadalajara, Mexico was no different from the rest of the world in this assumption as three of these young men, inspired by Guadalajara’s underground rock movement, got together to form a band. The musically like-minded friends were singer Ferdinand "Fher" Olvera and brothers Juan Diego Calleros (bass) and Ulises Calleros (guitar), who called themselves "Sombrero Verde," or "Green Hat" in English.

Sombrero Verde was luckier than many similar bands; they signed a record deal and released 2 albums: "Sombrero Verde" in 1981 and "A Ritmo de Rock" in 1983, but their luck seemed to wane as neither of the albums really garnered much enthusiasm and record sales were nothing to write home about.

In 1985, Olvera and company regrouped with the addition of a drummer, Alex Gonzales, and a new name, Maná — named after the Polynesian term for "positive energy." Four years later, they signed with Warner Music and released " Falta Amor"  in 1989. The album was slow to catch on but, with the help of the track “Rayando El Sol,” the album starting gaining traction with the public.

Finding Popularity in the 1990s

In 1992, original band member Ulises Calleros left the line-up and eventually became the band's manager. For their next album, "Donde Jugaran Los Ninos?" ("Where Will the Children Play"), Maná added keyboardist Ivan Gonzalez and guitarist Cesar Lopez. The album was Mana’s breakthrough with over a million in sales and 97 weeks on Billboard’s Latin album charts.

Gonzalez and Lopez didn’t stay with the band for long and Maná took to the road as a trio consisting of the original musicians. In 1995, the band went back to performing as a quartet with the addition of Sergio Vallin on guitar. Vallin was selected for the role after a large talent search that ended with the discovery of Vallin in Aguascalientes, Mexico.

The new quartet released " Cuando Los Angeles Lloran" ("When the Angels Cry") in 1996 and it earned them their first Grammy  Awards nomination. The album also spawned the hit singles “Dejame Entrar,” “No Ha Parado de Llover” and “Hundido En Un Rincon.”

The Selva Negra Foundation

With their growing popularity and success, Maná addressed an issue dear to their heart: the environment. They formed the Selva Negra Foundation in 1995, financing and supporting important projects aimed at protecting the environment.

Keeping to the theme, the band next released " Suenos Liquidos"  ("Liquid Dreams") in 1998. With the sea around Puerto Vallarta as inspiration, "Suenos Liquidos" mixed rock with various Latin rhythms, from bossa nova to flamenco.

With it, Maná achieved a new level of popularity; the album received a simultaneous worldwide release in 36 countries and awarded the band their first Grammy Awards win. It also contained the hit singles “El Muelle de San Blas,” “Hechicera” and “Clavade en un Bar," which they performed on a special "MTV Unplugged" show in 1999.

In the last decade, Mana’s popularity has continued to grow. With the release of "Amar Es Combatir" in 2006 and "Ardo El Cielo" in 2008 — both of which almost immediately reached the #1 spot on Billboard’s Latin charts — the band that modestly started in Guadalajara over 2 decades ago is now easily one of the most popular pop-rock groups in the Spanish-speaking world.