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Q&A: Santana

Refusing to be imprisoned by any one musical genre, guitar virtuoso Carlos Santana and his band, Santana, continue to churn out significant and meaningful music that comes from his heart’s center.

Article
Donna Leahey
Photos
Courtesy
Posted
June 29, 2017

Carlos Santana has one of the most unique sounds in music, and he’ll be bringing his signature blues-rock with Afro-Latin rhythms to Paradise Cove with his band, Santana. Santana has been rocking for more than 40 years and has collected nine Grammy Awards (Carlos won a solo Grammy Award in 1988 as well), been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, awarded Billboard’s Century Award in 1996, received the 2013 Kennedy Center Honors Award, and joins Barbra Streisand as the only two artists in Billboard history to have at least one top 10 album for six consecutive decades.

Rolling Stone ranks Carlos No. 15 on its list of the greatest guitarists of all time.

His dedication to social activism and humanitarian outreach is as legendary as his music. A publicly supported foundation established by Carlos and his family in 1998, The Milagro Foundation has donated millions of dollars to programs supporting under-served children and youth.

Q: You have talked in the past about the importance of music as part of a spiritual existence. How do your music and your spirituality influence each other?

A: They are one. Every note I play comes from my heart’s center. Those [in the band] who are receptive meditate and pray 15 minutes before we go onstage. It’s not mandatory. I notice that after we do it, the music becomes more than the notes or chord changes or melodies. It becomes a beautiful wave of light that embodies the room, and from the first note, people get up and need to move and express how the music is making them feel. We hit one note and everybody gets off their seats, they start looking at each other, and then they get chills. We see women crying and laughing and dancing, and you go into this kind of holy revival. As Bob Marley said, “Forget your troubles and dance.” I’m very grateful to God to be able to touch people’s hearts.

Q: You are the executive producer of Dolores, the 2017 biopic about civil rights activist and labor leader Dolores Huerta. What can you tell us about the movie and your experience making it?

A: It has been a glorious experience bringing Dolores’ story to the world. It is a story of triumph, fighting for equality, fairness and justice and her place in history as a true warrior of social justice. I heard a voice in my head, a calling, to shine a light on Dolores, so that her light can go to the corners of the world to inspire and claim back their magnanimity. Along with my brothers, Peter and Benjamin Bratt, we are able to shine that light on Dolores’ heart. [Peter directed the movie.]

Q: What can fans expect from your show at Paradise Cove?

A: We play songs from yesterday, today and tomorrow that will leave you experiencing a whole lot of chills, tears, dancing, laughing, rejoicing and celebrating your own divinity. But more than anything, energy and the power of believing you can do the impossible.

Q: Your sound is still unique with its blues guitar and Latin-American beats. What were the musical influences that helped you create your sound?

Santana will play River Spirit Casino on July 6.
Rolling Stone ranks Carlos Santana No. 15 on its list of the greatest guitarists of all time. (Photo: Maryanne Bilham)

A: My father, José Santana, was my biggest influence. He taught me the violin and about melody, structure and charisma. I applied the things he taught me about melody to the guitar and combined them with my influences to find my own sound. As I have said in the past, I am a child of B.B. King, Tito Puente, Miles Davis, John Lee Hooker, Otis Rush and Buddy Guy.

Q: What did writing your memoir [The Universal Tone: Bring My Story to Light] teach you about yourself?

A: I felt the time was right. My story is one of triumph, and I wanted to elevate, transform and illuminate. This book was the opposite of fear. Fear has a way of making people cynical; they become the worst version of themselves. For me, I had no fear in writing this book. With my brothers, Ashley Kahn and Hal Miller, I was able to tell my story without fear or judgment.

Q: You once said, "The best part of music is when it plays you." What does that feel like?

A: There is no better feeling. It’s like when you and your significant other are so lost in love with one another that you finally look up, and the sun is coming up, and it felt like one minute passed. It can happen anywhere that you pour love and intention into, not just in music. We achieve that on a nightly basis. It starts with centering your heart, shedding your skin of the fear and baggage that you are carrying around, and dancing in your own light. The best music comes when you are not thinking about the next note, which pedal to use or the next song; you are just lost in the moment and suddenly you look up and you see the band all smiling, and the audience is with you because they are part of this beautiful river flow.

Q: How is performing different for you now than when you started? Is the energy different?

A: Besides the obvious advances in sound technology, not much has changed for me. It still comes down to five things: stay genuine, honest, true, sincere and for real on every song.

Q: How important was your historic set at Woodstock to your success?

A: At that time, there were a lot of angels stepping in and making a way for us. The one angel who deserves the most credit is Bill Graham. He got us the gig when nobody had heard of us. We had just finished our first album, but it hadn’t been released. Bill agreed to help Michael Lang produce Woodstock on the condition that Santana got to perform. Michael Lang had never heard of us, but he trusted Bill. Woodstock was extremely important to Santana. It was the biggest door we would ever walk through with just one step. We were not aware of just how big it was until the movie came out. Suddenly, Santana was a household name.

Q: You are known for your social activism, humanitarian efforts, and your Milagro Foundation will be 20 years old next year. Tell us about some of the causes that are important to you.

A: The Milagro Foundation focuses its energy on children in the fields of education, health and the arts. Back in the ‘60s we learned that it is up to us to “create the change we wish to see in this world.” There is no greater joy to me than when someone comes up to me and tells me, “Mr. Santana, because of you and the Milagro Foundation, I am the first person in my family to graduate from college” or that we were able to bring them health care through our partnership with Telehealth. There are so many stories of children we have been able to reach and make a difference in their lives. For me, that is better than any award or honor. We are now also working with Operation Genesis in San Francisco to bring children from the inner city to Africa and have life experiences they would otherwise not experience.

LOCATOR
Santana
Paradise Cove | River Spirit Casino & Resort
8330 Riverside Pkwy. | Tulsa
888-748-3731
riverspirittulsa.com
July 6: 8 p.m.
Must be 21 or older to attend