|Rajkumar with (left) Raul Rico
As soon as the dates were announced I knew I had to be there. It wasn’t a favourable time of the year with hardly any trains and flight fares skyrocketing during the festival season. But I could not stop myself. On Ekadashi morning I was en route to watch my guru, my mentor, the living legend Carlos Santana and his band live.
I was staying with a friend of mine and both of us had e-tickets for the concert. Unable to contain my curiosity, both of us rushed to the venue that very night to redeem our tickets. It was far, we were on a bike and cold, but it did not matter.
Next morning, we left three hours ahead with very clear intentions of watching the act live from the front row. But hundreds of crazy fans were already there queued up at the gate. And when the gates finally opened we ran like we were running for our lives and there I was, in the first row. Major major — head rush!
As Indus Creed belted out originals and the crowds got anxious I found our very own rock star Fossils frontman Rupam Islam on his toes. The three giant screens flashing a still photograph of the legend, head bowed down in a namaste as the technical team went about their business on stage, was good enough to get me hooked.
And then I saw. The Man. With a hat and in all white walk in straight and stand right at the centre of the stage. I could not stop my emotions and tears welled up in my eyes. Yes, yes it was him Carlos Santana, right in front of me! The man and his men in real.
One after the other they came, every song, every piece, and all those arrangements I had memorised with my heart and soul, playing for eight years with Orient Express back home.
One after the other he fired those hits with a flourish of extensive solos and jam sessions. Santana spoke gently and softly, of love and peace and no brutality. I stood there for 15 minutes, crying, after it was over. My tears were happy. It was not just about the composer-guitar-player Santana; the entire act was much larger than life. The combined performance of everybody on stage showcased a legacy of age-long friendship and emotional ties.
The distance I had travelled and the nine long hours I had stood and waited, all seemed worth it. I was actually prepared to stand for nine hours more if he was willing to perform again.
The next morning I had to board the flight back home and as I waited at the airport I found Raul Rico (percussionist for Santana) walk towards the smoking zone. And this time there was no stopping me. I followed him and caught him for 15 minutes inside the cabin. I told him how I had been following their music note by note. Photographs clicked, autograph taken and email addresses exchanged, he even promised to reply.
As I left the room I heard that the rest were sitting inside the VIP lounge. I ran in and caught a glimpse of the great man but couldn’t get past the security cover. And so I left, after almost being dragged out of the lounge, with neither a photograph nor an autograph but a lucky glimpse up-close. Lost in my thoughts I was home before I knew it, back in my studio room with the guitar legend looking down at me from the poster, for as long as I can remember.