Article 6

Rock On

Love, Devotion and Surrender- Santana

(Published in Times of India Pune, on 14th July, 2001)

If there were one Rock musician who could come close to the Indian ethos and achieve the eclectic mix of spiritualism, intellectualism, emotion and intuition that Indian Music has been able to attain, it would have to be Carlos Santana. Presenting Music, which is a blend of exotic, frantic Latino rhythms, exquisite bluesy melodic lines bathed in an environment of hypnotic space, he has captured the minds of millions of people from all over the globe for the past three decades and continues to do so with even more vigor today. In an age of young and sexy Latino artistes like Ricky Martin and Jennifer Lopez, surrounded by nubile beauties and energetic dance movements, Santana will be celebrating his 54th birthday on July 20. And surprisingly, he seems to be even more relevant today than what he was when he started his incredible career. After all a record nine Grammy awards on February 23, 2000 at the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards where "Supernatural" his platinum selling Arista album sweeped all the major awards can be no coincidence!

My introduction to Santana was no different than what it was to the majority of the people in the West. It was his incredible performance of "Soul Sacrifice" at Woodstock and it propelled this young son of a Mexican mariachi violinist, to the top where he was the toast of millions of people from all over the world, encouraging thousands of youngsters like me to play the guitar. There was no looking back for the Santana Blues Band as it was then called who then proceeded to release a series of Albums like "Santana", "Abraxas" and "Santana 3" before the jazz bug caught Santana. What followed was a host of experimental albums with the like of Jazz greats like guitarist John McLaughlin, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, percussionist Airto Moreira, bassist Stanley Clarke, keyboardist Herbie Hancock, and drummer Billy Cobham, among others. His Latin Rock roots were not neglected as his experimental albums were always interspersed with the Pop/Rock variety. I was lucky to catch this great guitarist in concert at the North Sea Jazz Festival, The Hague, Holland in 1988 when he was on tour with the Jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter and although we rockers would have loved to hear him play his Latin/Rock repertoire, we were thrilled to hear his searing guitar solos.

Although, Santana had reached a very high level of popularity and fame in the seventies and eighties, no one could have anticipated the impact that he created in the late nineties with the release of "Supernatural". On my 1999 visit to New York for the AES convention, the song that I heard the most on radio in cars, streets and houses was the very first hit of Santana "Evil Ways", a song released in 1969! It seemed that time had stood still for this great master and it came off like a brand new song. I have always felt that the 1999 hit "Smooth" with Rob Thomas is a reworked modern version of ‘Evil Ways" speeded up to match modern times and pepped up with new sounds and a pretty face to come up with the right "Marketing Mix"!

In fact the right mix is what is Santana’s specialty. His early music was a mix of bluesy rock and Latin rhythms, which was later, infused with jazzy licks and spacey harmonic structures. In today’s form, Santana has incorporated Hip Hop and Rap and augmented his music with collaborations of young musicians using cutting edge technology. In the process he has come up with a new language in music that is adored by millions all over the world. This week, as the man celebrates his 54th birthday, you can bet the world’s airwaves are going to be buzzing with songs like "Evil Ways", "Jingo",

" Black Magic Woman", "Oye Como Va", "Smooth", "Maria Maria" etc. Here’s wishing him "Sau Saal Jiyo" from all his Pune fans!

Rock on.

Nandu Bhende











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