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Santana’s rhythmic tradition continues with new album, tour
Hari Sreenivasan: It's a year of anniversaries for famed guitarist Carlos Santana and the band that bears his name. Later this summer he'll be celebrating 50 years since both the release of the group's first album and their legendary performance at Woodstock. But this month marks the twentieth anniversary of his biggest hit record of all -- and he's on the road with a brand new album released just two days ago. NewsHour Weekend's Tom Casciato recently sat down with Carlos Santana at the musician's home base in Las Vegas, and has our story.
Tom Casciato: It was 20 years ago this month that Carlos Santana released what would become one of the biggest hit albums in music history, the Grammy-winning classic, "Supernatural".
This record was a worldwide phenomenon.
Carlos Santana: So they tell me, it's like I'm right there with, we got right there with Michael Jackson "Thriller" and the Eagles "Greatest Hits".
Tom Casciato: That's the top of the top in sales.
Carlos Santana: That's good company to be with.
Tom Casciato: "Supernatural" was a superstar-filled affair. One song was written by and featured Lauryn Hill.
Lauryn Hill (singing): Watch the master plan the pastures span, through the streets move the sheep, flipped the beat like the shepherd.
Tom Casciato: Dave Matthews co-wrote and guested on another.
Dave Matthews (singing): Where you are, that's where I want to be.
Tom Casciato: ... And of course the co-writer and singer of the smash hit "Smooth" was Rob Thomas.
Rob Thomas (singing): ...or else forget about it.
Tom Casciato: To celebrate the 20th anniversary of "Supernatural", Carlos Santana and company have embarked on what they're calling the "Supernatural Now" tour. But with over 30 albums to his name, Carlos Santana has never rested on his laurels. And the new tour is accompanied by a new album. Produced by the prolific Rick Rubin, it's called "Africa Speaks", and Carlos Santana sees his new music as the logical extension of a rhythmic tradition he's long been obsessed with.
Tom Casciato: Tell me about Africa Speaks.
Carlos Santana: We requested to meet Mr. Rick Rubin. I presented him with the concept because he said well what do you want to do? You know just straight up is this I want to play rhythms they don't play in Coachella. Rick Rubin called me back says, I'm in, I heard the songs and we recorded again forty nine songs in ten days. And these are just like 13 or 14 songs from that batch.
Tom Casciato: Wow. That's a lot of work.
Carlos Santana: Well see for me it wasn't work. I feel like a fire hydrant that it was gushing. Not little twinkles of water, we were gushing a lot.
Tom Casciato:Santana has always been known for infusing his work with sounds that go beyond the fusion of rock and latin music he's known for. In fact he's written that the group "was never a purebred when it came to music- we were always a mutt."
And African rhythms have always been part of the band's repertoire. In fact the song "Jingo," composed by the famed Nigerian percussionist Babatunde Olatunji, was among the earliest they performed. It's a song the band still plays.
Carlos Santana: Somebody asked me if Africa speaks what does it say to you. To me it says invite people to hope and courage. Give them encouragement. Because African music has this naked awareness of pure joy. You don't want to cure yourself if you're happy you only want to hurt yourself when you're unhappy, you know. Nobody goes to see a therapist analyst psychiatrist when you're happy.
Tom Casciato: Where "Supernatural" featured a raft of lead vocalists, "Africa Speaks" has just one: the Spanish singer of Equatorial-Guinean descent: Buika.
Buika (singing): Tina was no deceiver, few were inclined to believe her , Aba Tina oh, who you have there breakin' down the door?
Carlos Santana: It is the first time we ever had a female spirit solely on every song. Her singing is a combination of everything that I love about Nina Simone, Etta James and Tina Turner and more. Yet she doesn't sound like them.
Tom Casciato: The music has an earthy sound. But for Carlos Santana, Buika's vocals and the rest of the band's performance put his new work on a plane he prefers to speak of in philosophical terms.
Carlos Santana: You know this music... you get into this trance. This outside of body experience where you- you're dancing with absoluteness. It has that it starts off as a ceremony but it enters a vortex outside of time and outside of gravity. Because that's what people go to church or they go to rituals in Haiti or Africa. Musicians do it really really really good. You know a musician can make you feel your absoluteness and then they make you cry and laugh when a musician really plays it's like you remember your innocence again.