Santana wants to tear down walls with music

Carlos Santana and his wife Cindy, a jazz drummer who helped out on the album Power Of Peace.
Carlos Santana and his wife Cindy, a jazz drummer who helped out on the album Power Of Peace.PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Rock guitarist Carlos Santana teams up with The Isley Brothers in a new album, hoping to change the world

NEW YORK • The guitarist behind the hit 1999 song Smooth now wants to iron out the kinks troubling the world.

Teaming up with The Isley Brothers for a new album, Carlos Santana is not just uniting two musical legends. He also believes that the sound can change the world.

The pioneering rock guitarist holds lofty hopes for Power Of Peace, a collection of covers recorded with The Isley Brothers, who set the stage for pop music in the 1950s and 1960s with hits such as Shout and Twist And Shout.

"We felt that we needed to come together like superheroes and come and rescue this time and place in this planet that so intensely needs medicine to heal itself," the fedora-wearing guitarist said as he presented the album at Jimi Hendrix's Electric Lady Studios in New York's Greenwich Village.

Described as "medicine music" by Santana, the album, which came out last Friday, merges the smooth soulful voice of Ron Isley with Santana's distinctively rich-toned, poetically phrased guitar riffs.

The best-known songs covered on the album include Stevie Wonder's Higher Ground (1974), on which Santana rocks out with a high-voltage solo, and Marvin Gaye's 1971 environmental anthem Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology), which takes on some of Santana's signature Latin rhythms.

Isley, 76, shows that the mellifluous texture and high range of his voice are still intact on Leon Thomas' Let The Rain Fall On Me (1969) and as he channels Billie Holiday on God Bless The Child (1942).

Santana, who recently turned 70, has long spoken of a spirituality found in music - and believes ever more fervently in its power in this year's political climate, with headlines about anti-immigration and a move towards nationalism.

"I encourage people to play it in parking lots, malls, CNN - everywhere," Santana said of the album. "So you can correct a twisted, crooked mind that wants to harm other people."

Making clear he was alluding to United States President Donald Trump, he added: "Some fool is trying to create more walls. We say, you don't have to. Save your money. It's already in people's heads.

"So we want to take the wall out of people's heads by creating this kind of frequency."

The album was recorded in little more than four days in Las Vegas when Santana invited Ron and younger brother Ernie, a guitarist.

Santana approached Ron after the latter attended one of his shows, starting a friendship that involved daily telephone chats.

"It was an unexplainable experience for me after 60 years of doing this music," Ron said. "It was so much fun."

Also helping out on the album was Santana's wife Cindy, a jazz drummer best known for her work with Lenny Kravitz.

She recalled that Ron's take on Dusty Springfield's 1967 hit, The Look Of Love, had been the couple's song for the first dance at their wedding.

Santana hopes the collaboration will continue, with a desire to tour Africa, given that his music's influences are "99.9 per cent African".

"We want to go around the world to keep bringing more walls down in the head, in the brain and the mind."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 03, 2017, with the headline 'Santana wants to tear down walls with music'. Print Edition | Subscribe