Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Brief Conversation with Carlos Santana / Must-See Shows from Joe Bonamassa, Santana, and Graham Nash

Carlos Santana made headlines on Monday, July 20, with the announcement that his memoir, The Universal Tone, had won an American Book Award. A must-read for fans of the artist, The Universal Tone will captivate any reader curious to learn about the life, career, and philosophy of this immensely talented, spiritually enlightened, charmingly humble man. His Corazon tour, now into its second year, is a celebration of Latin music that has been delighting audiences across several continents. The tour comes to the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium on August 14th , marking a return to beloved territory for the musical legend.

Carlos Santana - image by Erik Kabik

A transatlantic phone call to Florence, Italy on July 22 provided the opportunity for a brief conversation with Carlos Santana. He was in great spirits, and we managed to cover a decent deal of ground in a limited period of time …


Roy Abrams: Congratulations on receiving the American Book Award for The Universal Tone! It’s very apparent that the memoir has struck a universal chord with readers. What was the writing process like for you?


Carlos Santana: Thank you for asking! For me, I was very diligent about taking the high road and speaking about things that I felt were inspiring and healing and hopefully people can identify with seeking light constantly no matter what gets in front of you. (I also wanted to honor) those like Bill Graham and, of course, Clive Davis, Tito Puente, and all those who have played an incredible role in teaching me, in opening doors for me in teaching me how to maintain a very, very high standard.


RA: I’m a quarter of the way through the book now, but have to say that even at this point, I am mightily impressed by its honesty, but even more so by the spirituality in evidence throughout the pages. In the introduction, you say that you realize that you’re not alone, that you’re connected to everyone, which struck me as the equivalent of John Lennon’s famous line, “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.” Another statement you make about locating the source of your spiritual goal reflects George Harrison’s   “The Inner Light,” where you say, “It is always right here, in the here and now, in my spirit and music and intentions and energy.” To many, this realization is the key to humanity’s ultimate survival. How do you view today’s society in the light of what appears to be a collective waning of spirituality, and what would you offer as a remedy?


CS: I think that the healing and remedy is to invite people to actually claim, accept, and own that we are beings of light, and to manifest love. A lot of people I know get really upset because it doesn’t mesh with the misery philosophy of wretched sinner (with its accompanying) guilt and fear; the chains that bind you to Hell, quite literally. I don’t accept that God would create a concept like that. I think that the concept came from a twisted, crooked mind, you know, and so in that sense a lot of Fundamental Christians would be really upset, because they have to have a sacrifice all the time. But my God doesn’t need sacrifice, never requires sacrifice, he doesn’t require man’s time, because for God, it’s the eternity now. So what I would have to offer to humanity is an invitation to look in the mirror and constantly repeat, “I agree with myself. I accept myself. I love myself. Therefore, I am worthy of all the blessings and miracles and grace. I am a beam of light, and therefore I can create miracles and blessings.” It’s not just the Pope who can do that.


RA: Your definition of The Universal Tone is “the music inside the music” where “ego disappears and energy takes over.” Was your acceptance of being a conduit of The Universal Tone gradual in nature, or was it the result of a singular epiphany?


CS: There were many, many epiphanies. For me, it all started with my mother and my father, watching them ascend constantly beyond what they knew or what they had. As I said in the book, my mother and dad didn’t have any formal education; yet they (taught us the importance of) integrity, being kindly, and being hard workers. Some people go to the best universities, but they’re not necessarily nice people. They’re kind of clever fools. My Mom wouldn’t have that. I think it started with mother and my father, for me. They set the tone for what I would be thirsty for later on, with them and without them in my own navigating through this life.


RA: This is the Corazon tour’s second year, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Are there any spots that you’ve visited so far where the response has been surprising even for you?


CS: No, it’s all been equal and the same, from Mexico to Africa. People claim the songs no matter where they are in the world.

RA: You have amassed a considerable list of musical collaborators over the decades. Are there others who are on your “bucket list”?


CS: Yes, of course! Right now, the closest one is Ronald Isley from the Isley Brothers. Somewhere in the future I would like to collaborate with Andrea Bocelli, Lady Gaga and Kirk Hammett (from Metallica). It would be nice to do something with Sting and Prince; however it would have to be mutual consent of song. To me, life is a big Rolodex and a big portfolio. It’s not being stuck on one page.


RA: I had the pleasure of speaking with Gregg Rolie years ago when he released a solo album, and remember hearing his admiration for you and the rest of the Santana band. I understand that the original members of Santana have gotten back together and there is an album (Santana IV) that has recently been completed?


CS: Yes, we’re going to finish mixing it in September, possibly October.


RA: Are you planning on taking it on the road?


CS: We’re in the process of crystallizing that.


RA:  New York City, for so many musicians, holds a special place due to its incredible cultural diversity. It probably contains in its population representatives of all the countries that you’ve performed in thus far. What’s your relationship been like with New York City and what would you like to say to your New York fans?


CS: I just want to say thank you so much, for wanting to share with us since 1969, when we came to the Fillmore East—I think we played (our first show) with Sha-Na-Na, Canned Heat, and Three Dog Night. Nobody knew who the hell Santana was, and then we played with PG&E and Buddy Miles. Ever since I can remember, coming to New York and hanging out in Harlem and seeing Tito Puente, there’s quite the school or university of learning how to reach new levels of intensity with energy!




Other must-see concerts in August include:



Joe Bonamassa - image by Rhonda Pierce
This musical tribute to Albert, B.B., and Freddie King includes covers from the three blues legends, performed by Bonamassa and his stellar band. The tour continues the celebration of the genre begun in 2014 with the “Muddy Wolf” set at Red Rocks, a concert that paid tribute to Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. Be sure to catch Bonamassa and company on August 7th at the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden, NJ, or on August 8th at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ.


Graham Nash - image by Eleanor Stills
Back in May, Graham Nash and I had a lengthy conversation which explored his 50-year career, up to and including his current solo tour, which features material culled from the artist’s diverse musical collaborations, including The Hollies, CSN(Y), and brand-new songs co-written with guitarist Shane Fontayne, who is accompanying Nash for these intimate shows. Don’t miss the tour when it comes to the Paramount Theatre in Huntington on August 12th.

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