The Earth-shattering impact of Carlos Santana on the music world is well known - Santana's 1969 self-titled debut sold over two million copies, the landmark 1970 follow-up, Abraxas, sold over four million units, that "Soul Sacrifice" at Woodstock, the multiple Grammy awards, his signature guitar tone, the night he turned S.F. upside down with Trey Anastasio. This is all old news. What we gain from this intimate, extensive conversation with Santana is a look beyond the stage into his deep spirituality. We not only get a closer look at his God-given talent, his recent high-profile collaborations on Ultimate Santana (released October 16, 2007 on Arista) and his history growing up in Mexico, we also get a glimpse of Santana the man. Carlos Santana is not like the rest of us, he was touched by something greater. He is propelled by spirits and is in touch with parts of the universe few of us will ever know. Santana is a giving, kind, gentle and very open soul, all of which becomes apparent as he opens to JamBase.
| Carlos Santana|
The Spirit of Sound
JamBase: I wanted to start with the idea of spirituality. Where does your sense of spirituality come from? It always comes across so strong in your music.
Santana: I guess I knew, even before my mom and dad told me, that there was a divine purpose. When they took me to church and I was a kid, a child, a lot of that stuff didn't make any sense to me, although I knew that God wasn't Santa Claus. It wasn't fictitious or it wasn't Peter Pan, there was some kind of connection with a Supreme Being. It's almost like when you hear a song before you actually play it. So, I started searching. Especially after the first wave of the Woodstock and the Abraxas [album], and you know, we hit really hard. For some reason I found myself craving a hug from God. So, I started playing John Coltrane's music and listened to Martin Luther King's speeches and Mahalia Jackson, and what everybody else was doing. You know, we all did it together, the stuff you get into when you get your first royalty checks. Then you go crazy buying motorcycles or drugs or chicks or whatever, you know? And I was feeling that I needed a different kind of hug than a physical hug. That's for me where it began, where I knew that God was very intangible but at the same time very present.
JamBase: As a musician, how do you go about trying to sort of transfer that idea into your guitar and your music?
Santana: This is really, really a great question because this is the same thing that, whether it's Eric Clapton or Trey Anastasio, where all of us are connected to this absoluteness and totality. Sometimes the mind gets in the way and then we start thinking that we're this or we're that or that we're separated. The way it translates is that you take time to feel your heart. For example, your imagination is like a muscle. If you take the time to just sit down and just close your eyes and imagine things, it's like a muscle you develop. That's why it's good to turn off the TV once in a while, and maybe not even read for a while. Just sit with yourself and get beyond the monkey chatter and beyond the fishbowl with a bunch of fish. Then you get to hear this voice, this voice that sounds very different than all the other accusing voices or guilt voices, or guilt, shame, judgment, condemnation and fear, which is how religions program men to feel less than worthy of God. Once you start hearing this voice it's like a voice that is very soothing, very gentle, and is very non-accusing. And then you hear the music. You hear that music of John Coltrane or Bob Marley or Marvin Gaye that was going on. You start hearing the music from the other side, the music that is very good for humans because it brings a certain sense of unity and harmony. It reminds you, Aaron, that you and I, we're angels, that we traded our wings for feet. You know, we're beings of light. And then you hear the music. Then the music starts flowing through your heart and through your fingers, and then people know that. For example, when Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood did that song, "I have finally found the presence of the Lord." You start hearing songs. And George Harrison, "Within You Without You," or "My Sweet Lord." You start hearing all the other songs that transcend rock & roll or Billboard. Yet they get in Billboard, but they have a different kind of message. It's sunny even when it's raining when you hear those songs. To me, spirituality is very different than religion. I got to have it.
| Carlos Santana|
JamBase: Sort of inline with that - and I do agree that there's a great difference between spirituality and religion - but we live in a day where the idea of God is being used in some very compromising ways. We're seeing people killed in the name of God, and we're seeing our planet being raped and the future as we know it could very well be in peril. These are difficult times for a lot of people. Do these ideas and these facts influence your music today? Are you thinking about these things when you're composing or writing or playing?
Santana: Yes. If you listen to the whole CD of Marvin Gaye's What's Going On, he talked about it very clearly. For me, my reality or my perception of this reality is that any government or president who hears the voice of God and it tells him to go kill people is not God. It's Godzilla.
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