Santana's Aim: A Musical Union With Humanity

Excerpted from the magazine for

Carlos Santana acknowledges that he faced a potentially tense scenario when he began assembling material for the follow-up to his monumentally successful 1999 opus, "Supernatural." But rather than succumb to the tension, the legendary artist chose to embrace the possibility of crafting another collection of sounds that could touch the world at large.

Ever philosophical, Santana, the 1996 Billboard Century Award honoree, says he actually views what might have been a dilemma as a gift from the universe.

"This is not an exercise in reaching greater numeric heights. How can you draw a numeric connection to a miraculous union of music and humanity? You can't. You simply bow your head and humbly offer thanks," he explains. "Then you use the opportunity provided by that miracle to continue sharing your heart and your soul and all you've learned in life with the world. I could've gotten all tripped out by sales and stuff like that. But that's not where I am as either a human being or as an artist -- and I refuse to go there."

"Supernatural" is a high point for an artist whose career spans more than 30 years. His 36th recording, it has sold 11.1 million copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan, with Arista reporting worldwide sales of 25 million. It also earned nine Grammy Awards in 2000, including album of the year, best rock album, and record of the year. The set's breakout single, "Smooth" (featuring matchbox twenty singer Rob Thomas), logged 12 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on The Billboard Hot 100.

For Santana, the imminent "Shaman" (due worldwide Oct. 22) was born a little more than a year ago, when he wrote "Victory Is One," an epic instrumental that interweaves threads of rock, Latin pop, and R&B. It bears the most important stamp of a Santana composition: It is not aimed at one musical sensibility. "It's intended to remind people of the bigger picture; a picture that doesn't subscribe to one genre or mind-set," he says.

From there, the artist says ideas began to flow freely and take solid shape. One of his greatest points of pride on the album is the set closer, "Novus," an ethereal instrumental that showcases some of Santana's most lyrical, evocative guitar lines.

As those songs took form, Santana says he felt "completely open and emotionally available" to channel and interpret a wide range of styles and concepts to the 16 songs that constitute the richly textured "Shaman."

"The problem with a lot of musicians and bands is that they paint with one color," he says. "They pick one style and stay there. That's too stifling to me. I want to use each and every color available. I want to paint rainbows."

To that end, "Shaman" employs a diverse troupe of guest performers to execute songs that run the gamut from traditional Latin and rock to pop and R&B -- with occasional injections of hip-hop and electronica. Among the artists featured are Chad Kroeger from Nickelback, Dido, P.O.D., Macy Gray, and Michelle Branch, who voices the set's retro-R&B-laced first single, "The Game of Love."

Absent from the performing lineup is Thomas. He has, however, contributed several cuts to the project as a songwriter. "Honestly, it just worked out that way; there was no premeditation or planning," Santana says. "We simply let each song follow its natural conclusion. My brother Rob has written some beautiful music; I'm glad that his presence will be so strongly felt on this album."

On the same day "Shaman" is released, fans will also be able to purchase "The Essential Santana," a 33-track, two-CD retrospective chronicling the first 20 years of the recorded output of the artist's namesake group.

Santana is out on the road playing a brief slate of California dates, including a stop tonight (Oct. 5) at the Chronicle Pavilion in Concord. He's also slated to make two New York-based television appearances this month, Oct. 15 on the 2002 VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards and Oct. 22 as part of NBC's "Today" show "Rocktober" concert series.

Here are Santana's upcoming tour dates:

Oct. 4: Concord, Calif. (Chronicle Pavilion @ Concord)
Oct. 5: Mountain View, Calif. (Shoreline Amphitheatre)
Oct. 8-9: Santa Barbara, Calif. (Santa Barbara Bowl)
Oct. 11: Chula Vista, Calif. (Coors Amphitheatre)
Oct. 12: Los Angeles (Hollywood Bowl)
Oct. 15: New York (Radio City Music Hall, 2002 VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards)
Oct. 22: New York (Rockefeller Center, NBC's "Today")

Excerpted from the Oct. 5, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the members section.

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