Friday April 19, 2013
Singing the blues
By EDDINO ABDUL HADI
Latin music great Santana reminisces about music from the 1960s.
GUITAR icon and Latin music’s biggest rock star Carlos Santana has little love for modern popular music.
The 65-year-old Mexican-American musician says that he does not listen to mainstream radio.
“Not at all,” he says. “I think right now in 2013, the majority of what I hear on the radio is kind of monotone. It’s not really profound, it’s not exciting.”
He reminds you that back in the 1960s, the decade that he started out, he and his peers stood up for important issues and protested against conflicts such as the Vietnam War. He likens pop singers of today to “a baby going ‘Aaaaaah’ before they go to sleep”.
He explains: “We were saying something in the 1960s, our music, our sound, we were trying to say, ‘Let’s create peace on Earth’. Right now, it’s more like ‘Buy my CD, I need a new house, I want to get a car’. When I listen to a song, it’s more like complaining than really wanting to bring a change. And so I’m not enthusiastic about the sound of music right now.”
The multi-Grammy-winning veteran certainly felt differently back in 1999 when he released Supernatural, the comeback album that thrust him back into the limelight.
His 17th and most successful album to date, it featured some of the most popular contemporary singers at that time, including rocker Rob Thomas, R&B duo The Product G&B and soul singer Lauryn Hill. He ended up selling 20 million copies and picking up nine Grammy Awards.
His latest release and 22nd studio album released last year, Shape Shifter, features mostly instrumentals. It peaked at No.16 on the mainstream Billboard charts.
Revered for his distinctive guitar tone and playing style, Santana has much praise for younger guitar players, such as Greek female player Orianthi and American bluesman Joe Bonamassa, whom he says are pushing the envelope with their innovative playing.
He also singles out 33-year-old Grammy-winning American guitarist Derek Trucks, his favourite among the lot.
“I think Trucks is more important than all of them. He is hungry for different kinds of expression, the same way as John Coltrane and Jeff Beck.
“We don’t want to be rabbits in a cage. We want to break the cage and come out. I think a lot of guitar players, sometimes they imprison themselves by playing a certain way and they don’t reach out to be free. It takes courage to be free actually.”
Born in Mexico, Santana and his family moved to San Francisco during his teenage years. It was there that the budding guitarist was exposed to various genres of music, including jazz and folk, as well as the burgeoning hippie movement of the 1960s.
He formed the Santana Blues Band in 1966 and the band’s unique mix of rock, Latin, jazz and African rhythms soon garnered them attention and led to a now-legendary slot at the iconic Woodstock festival in 1969.
Popular throughout the 1970s, his album sales started to wane from the mid-1980s to the 1990s before Supernatural made him a household name again.
Besides touring and working on the follow-up to Shape Shifter, he is also working on a memoir, set to be published in English and Spanish next year.
Santana, who is married to drummer Cindy Blackman, 53, and has three children from a previous marriage, emphasises that it will be different from other celebrity autobiographies.
“A lot of books are written about the same stupid stuff, people losing money, too much drugs... I don’t want to talk about that. I want to talk about the beauty of inspiration and creativity.”
He learnt a lot from his peers and other iconic musicians whom he counts as friends - people such as jazz legend Miles Davis, blues veteran B.B. King and Latin jazz great Tito Puente, and he wants to share these lessons in his book.
“I want to talk about that, how there is a way to share with people positive things that people can do so that you don’t become a victim of yourself and you don’t become a tragedy and a boring statistic.” – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network