Shape Shifter: A Conversation With Icon of Style Carlos Santana
Photos by Marco Torres
National Hispanic Heritage Month is observed annually between September 15t and October 15 as a celebration of the positive cultural impact Hispanic and Latino Americans contribute to this country.
This year, guitarist Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Carlos Santana was honored by Macy's as the Hispanic Heritage Month "Icon of Style", citing his achievements in music and fashion. In his acceptance speech, he commented the following:
I am so honored Macy's has chosen me as Icon of Style for 2012. I believe that personal expression is the essence of the human spirit and for me that has always been through my music and my style.
I am proud to be Latino and I think it comes though in everything that I do. every song, every rhythm, the colors, prints and textures in my designs. Muchas gracias, Macy's!
Rocks Off spoke briefly with Mr. Santana by phone, where we discussed the importance of keeping females happy, a possible collaboration with Adele, and the legalization of marijuana.
Rocks Off: Congratulations on being named Macy's Icon of Style. Why is it important to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month?
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Carlos Santana: It helps us develop a voice. Many of us Latinos here in the United States are invisible... the cooks, landscapers, nannies. There are so many of us now that we need our voice to be heard.
RO: So do you consider yourself as Latino, or Hispanic, or simply Mexican-American?
CS: I am all of the above and none of the above. My father's blood was part Tarahumara Indian and my mother was more Spanish. I was born in Mexico and I am an American citizen.
I don't put too much importance on terminology -- every 25 years they come up with a new label for us anyway. Ultimately I'm just a human being like Bob Marley or John Lennon.
RO: Your new album Shape Shifter was released earlier this year, which is the first for your new label Starfaith Records and your thirty-sixth overall. How does it feel to be so successful and still relevant over such a long career?
CS: Aw man, it's wonderful. I'm very happy for this new album, just as I was happy with what we did with Supernatural. You know it's interesting that I was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, and then I won all of those Grammy Awards two years later.
Just goes to show that it's never too late to achieve your dreams. Anyone can become a genius at something when they concentrate and complete that thing. Anything is possible when you have hope, trust and have faith in your journey.
RO: Have you completed your journey?
CS: My journey is complete with each album, but I continue to feel that hunger to create new things, which is why I continue to tour and record new music.
RO: At your last show here in Houston, you gave some advice to the gentlemen in the crowd. You told us "When you keep the females happy, everything is happening!" Is that what you attempt to achieve through your shoe and accessory line Carlos by Carlos Santana?
CS: My goal is to help people feel happy and elegant. It is an invitation to feel confident and a validation of themselves. Females run the economy, so we need them to be happy. They do the shopping and create flows.
Like I've said before, if they aren't happy, neither Obama, nor the Pope, not even Oprah can help you!
RO: My favorite track from Shape Shifter is "Canela", partly because you invite your son Salvador to play with you. Why is it important to keep a strong family bond and how does that help your music?
CS: When you retain your family connections you retain a certain sacredness. The great leaders like Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez, they preached love, education, and the value of la familia. I'm grateful for my son and my family, and they keep my spirit truthful.
RO: Are you searching for new artists to sign to Starfaith Records?
CS: No, not at this time. But my wonderful friend Clive Davis and I have spoken about a Supernatural-inspired album with all Latin artists.
RO: Is there anyone you would really like to collaborate with?
CS: I love Adele. She has an amazing voice. I think everyone would like to hear an Adele/Santana record!
RO: If you could give any advice to Mexican President-Elect Enrique Peña Nieto, or President Barack Obama and presidential candidate Mitt Romney, what would it be?
CS: Legalize marijuana and use the proceeds to educate students and pay teachers, and also feed the hungry. We should stop our wars against Iran and Afghanistan. We spend way too much money on fear and not enough money on love.
RO: Thank you for speaking with us, sir. It has been quite the honor.