|Picture by Erik Kabik
The first time we saw Santana playing was on a grainy VHS (video home system) of him at Woodstock. Evil Ways and an incredible drum solo by Michael Shrieve on Soul Sacrifice were my takeaways. They were in their 20s then and would go on to become the signature sound of a new kind of rock music, a heady mix of Latin rhythms and distinctive guitar solos.
Four decades later, we will get to hear The Man and The Legend live, in person, courtesy DNA Networks. In Bangalore and Delhi.
Smooth with Rob Thomas (Supernatural) helped the
‘Today Generation’ get to know him. That was in 1999. Eleven years later, he teamed up with legendary producer Clive Davis once again and re-invented classics with a stellar cast of musicians in Guitar Heaven. This time, the ‘Yesterday Generation’ reached out for their records and cassettes. Carlos Santana was back. So very back.
In a telephonic conversation with t2, the guitar god was soft-spoken, almost embarrassed by the adulatory references to his past. Listen in.
Namaste. Thank you for agreeing to come to India. Your first time?
Namaste. And yes, it will be my first time. I am indeed very honoured and privileged to be able to go to India.
What will you be playing for us?
It’s Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (the title of the show featuring his greatest hits). We play close to three hours.
At the release of Guitar Heaven, Olivia Harrison (wife of George Harrison) said you and George had an “invisible connection”. And you maintained that you are a visual person even when it comes to a song. What do you see when you are playing The Beatles’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps?
Thank you for saying that. I see George, Ravi Shankar and Yo-Yo Ma (Grammy award-winning cellist featured along with vocalist India Arie).
Judging by the success of Supernatural, where you team up with younger musicians of today, you get on very well with them. How do you do that?
I am 65 now. But I feel that it’s not impossible to connect with songs by say, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Adele or any other of the Grammy sensations. You only need to choose the right song.
Woodstock was incredible. We were five years old then and far away. But I heard stories about that day. It was supposed to rain, but the sun shone when you and your band came on to play...
It rained all right. But yes, the sun started to shine when we were on stage.
So many years later, you still rock. How do you manage that?
I think you need to be focused if you want to learn. Anybody who is anybody, like Albert Einstein, Shri Aurobindo and Leonardo da Vinci, they all did that. If you have to accomplish anything, you have to be focussed. Focus. Focus. Focus. That’s all there is.
How has your playing changed over the years?
Well… it’s very naked. I know bit more now, I think.
Tell us something about your partnerships with jazz-rock masters John McLaughlin and Wayne Shorter.
Thank you for talking about them. They are two of my favourite musicians. When I am around them, I feel I know nothing. And I am happy to know nothing! And that’s a nice place to be in — the purity of innocence.
Your latest album, Shape Shifter, is a collection of original instrumentals. Why did you choose to keep out songs?
There are songs in it all right. Only I am not singing. My guitar is.
There’s this crazy fan who has one of your albums, Shango, and wants to know if you would sign it for him, if he is able to meet you in Bangalore.
Well of course I would!
Thank you, it was a pleasure.
Which is your favourite Santana song?
Santana performs in Bangalore on October 26 and in Delhi on October 28
A chat with the man behind the india acts of biggies like deep purple and the rolling stones — Venkat Vardhan
In 2001when the Bangalore papers screamed Deep Purple, no one could believe there could ever be some Smoke on The Water. That too in the city of Hebbal Lake! But there was. Thereafter, in the years to come, India got to see some great acts. Scorpions, Roger Waters and in 2003, the biggie, The Rolling Stones.
Behind these epic events was DNA Networks, an event management company formed in 1986. Founder Venkat Vardhan dared to break the rules and think big. Today, they’ve done it again with two Santana shows in Bangalore and Delhi.
In this time of gloom and doom, how did you manage to pull this off?
F1 racing making its entry into India has partially helped in getting big artistes interested as they can now look at performing two shows in India — one at Rock In India, our festival now in its sixth year, and at F1 Rocks on the same weekend.
Tell us something about the scale of the shows...
Santana’s shows are known for impeccable quality of sound, lights and showmanship. His presentation is a full-scale concert that uses over 35 tonne equipment that he is shipping for the Bangalore and Delhi gigs.
So, his act will be on a par with the Rolling Stones show in April 2003?
Yes. Musically, Santana’s show will on a par with the legendary acts that we have promoted here in India over these past few years.
What will he play? Will we get to hear tracks from his latest album, Shape Shifter?
His concert will include the greatest hits, plus a couple of songs from his new album for sure.
Are you planning anything special for him?
Since he has a special place for Lord Ganesha in his heart, I am presenting him with a Lord Ganesha idol to welcome him to India.
DNA Networks has brought to India some of the stellar acts of rock and popular music. To what do you attribute your success?
I think the hard work I have put in, our team’s dedication to quality, integrity and passion have made us the first choice for big international acts.
Sadly though Calcutta has rarely been the venue of such acts. I can remember Richie Havens and Wishbone Ash in the ’80s and Jethro Tull recently. Isn’t it unfair?
We are currently working on bringing a concert to Calcutta… maybe as early as March/April 2013.
Congratulations once again for bringing Santana. Can we now hope for a Clapton and a Dylan?
Thank you. It is equally gratifying for me to have Santana come here to perform. Yes, next year will be the turn of another great legend!