September 12, 2008
By Gene Triplett
Carlos Santana was playing "world music" long before some marketing
whiz coined the term as a pop-culture genre label for music that
knows no borders.
"Our music stands for 'We're all in it together,'" the gifted
guitarist said in a phone interview from his office in San Rafael,
Calif. "We can't leave anybody out."
Born July 20, 1947 in Autlan de Navarro, Mexico, he grew up listening
to the Latin strains of his virtuoso Mariachi violinist father by
day, and the blues licks of John Lee Hooker, T. Bone Walker and B.B.
King crossing the border at night via powerful American radio station
signals. He took up the violin at 5, but fell into a lifelong love
affair with the guitar at age 8, and began playing the bars and clubs
of Tijuana while still in his teens.
Moving to San Francisco with his parents in 1961 six years before
the Summer of Love the young Santana was already honing a fluid,
rhythmic, high-flying Latin-blues style that would later incorporate
spicy elements of soul and jazz and become a trademark sound that
would sustain a brilliant career from the Woodstock era to the present day.
He's also known for his worldwide humanitarian and social activism,
born of a deep spirituality that has shone brightly through much of
his music, and "Multi Dimensional Warrior," a new two-disc collection
of songs culled from the past four decades, gathers what the artist
considers to be his most meaningful musical meditations on the human condition.
"When I came back from Hawaii, it was very clear to me that I needed
to create like a love letter to the fans," Santana said. "And this
love letter, every song that I selected within an hour, it took me
an hour to put it all together I realized that I've been doing this
for a long time.
"And there are two perceptions of it. One, this is the music that
didn't get listened to between 'Abraxis' (his 1970 album) and
'Supernatural' (his 1999 multi-Grammy-winning, multi-platinum,
all-star vocalist comeback album), which people seem to recognize the most.
Secondly, Santana said, "These are songs and lyrics and melodies that
I have invested a lot of passion and devotion into, why I'm here on
this planet. For example, when you equate Rev. Desmond Tutu, he's
forgiveness. When you think about the Dalai Lama, he is compassion.
When you think about Dr. Martin Luther King, he is peace and unity."
Hence, the title, "Multi Dimensional Warrior."
Santana said he selected the 28 career-spanning recordings that he
feels best represent his creative evolution, filling Disc One with 14
vocal tracks, including "Let There Be Light" from 1990's "Spirits
Dancing in the Flesh" LP, "I'll Be Waiting" from 1977's "Moonflower,"
"Your Touch" from 1993's "Milagro," and "Serpents and Doves" from
2004's "Food for Thought."
Disc Two is all-instrumental, showcasing some of Santana's most
virtuosic solo work on "Samba Pa Ti" from "Abraxas," the
Grammy-winning cuts "El Farol," which he co-wrote and performed with
his son Salvadore Santana on "Supernatural," and "Blues for
Salvadore" from the 1987 album of the same name, and the
heart-rending "Europa" from 1976's "Amigos."
"I want people when they think of me to understand that the 'Multi
Dimensional Warrior' lyrics in there are designed to remind everyone
that listens that we come from the light and we're going to return to
the light, and we shouldn't invest so much here into thinking that we
are the body," Santana said. "Because the body is just like a guitar.
It only plays when the guy grabs it. To make it more concise, it's to
remind people that we're devine. We're not just a bunch of issues
with a bunch of negative stuff and fear, guilt and judgment.
Everything that you see on TV we are not. That's a collective
illusion. It's not reality."
Santana practices what he preaches in many ways. In 1998, after
decades of charitable work, he and his wife, author Deborah Santana,
established the Milagro Foundation, which has granted more than $1.8
million to organizations supporting underprivileged children in the
areas of health, education and the arts. Santana also is active in
the fight against AIDS in partnership with Artists for a New South Africa.
And, of course, he's still spreading the gospel according to Carlos
through his music, currently on the second, North American leg of his
"Live Your Light" world tour, which started in February in Dubai,
Santana's debut Persian Gulf performance. The tour brings him to the
Ford Center on Tuesday, his first appearance in Oklahoma City since 1986.
"The timing is perfect because there's a lot of healing needed," he
said. "There's still residue from the Oklahoma City bombing in
people's hearts, and I want to bring music that really brings a
healing and closure, you know, so we can learn a collective lesson
about let's see, how I can say this ... if we can bring music,
which we will do our best to do, that would allow people to look at
each other through the eyes of Christ. Then there will be more
kindness, compassion, patience, understanding, sweetness, all the
things that are missing right now because there's too much fear on
TV, too much anger, people killing each other and fighting each
other. People killing each other in the ring.
"It's like, man, we're back to the Roman days with the lions and the
Christians, so we need to bring music, like 'Imagine,' John Lennon,
'One Love,' Bob Marley, 'A Love Supreme,' John Coltrane. We need to
bring all that with us."