Carlos Santana (photo by Maryanne Bilham/PR)
Carlos Santana and his band are marking significant milestones throughout 2019. Fifty years ago, Santana signed with Columbia Records and in late August 1969, the band released its landmark self-titled debut. Roughly two weeks prior to the album’s release, Santana played an incendiary set at Woodstock.
And 20 years ago in 1999, Santana released his most commercially successful album, Supernatural. In addition to celebrating significant anniversaries, this year is even sweeter for Santana with the release of an EP, In Search Of Mona Lisa, and a brand new album, Africa Speaks.
I first heard Santana’s music when I was six or seven years old. My dad had the band’s iconic debut album as well as Carlos Santana’s first side project — a live collaboration with drummer Buddy Miles simply called Carlos Santana & Buddy Miles! Live!. Those two albums left an indelible mark on me, cementing my lifelong love for Santana and the band that bears his name. When I recently had the opportunity to talk to Carlos, one of my music heroes, I was stoked.
Africa Speaks is a celebration of African music and culture — a genre that Santana has explored from time to time in the past. (Check out their 1982 album, Shango.) Africa Speaks, produced by Rick Rubin, prominently features Latin jazz singer Concha Buika and the collaboration between Santana, Buika and Rubin is a powerful one.
Recorded quickly over ten days at Rubin’s Shangri La Studios in Malibu, California, the sessions netted nearly 50 songs, three of which were included on In Search Of Mona Lisa. The EP was released back in January and was inspired by Santana's first visit to the Louvre and his first experience seeing Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa in person.
Africa Speaks is a family affair too — it features Carlos, on guitar and vocals, and his wife, the drummer Cindy Blackman Santana. Santana's son Salvador Santana guests on keyboards. In addition to Buika, Santana also reached out to British singer Laura Mvula to sing on "Blue Skies." The rest of the band includes Karl Perazzo on percussion, Benny Rietveld on bass, and David K. Mathews on keyboards.
On this edition of FUV Live, my conversation with Carlos Santana chatting about Africa Speaks — a passionate, enlightened and emotional album. Also, fiery performances of the title track and "Candombe Cumbele."
[Recorded: 5/9/19; Producer: Sarah Wardrop]