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Santana’s music is described as Latin rock infused with the sounds of jazz and the rhythm of Africa.
But listening to the band’s guitarist, songwriter and namesake speak at the Mount Nelson hotel, it could just as easily be some sort of quasi-spiritual scientific experiment.
“We are going to rearrange your molecular structure,” said Carlos Santana, reclining in a chair at the hotel’s Orchard Room as he described what fans could expect from his concert tonight.
“I can say this with a straight face, (when we play) we are going to change your molecular structure.”
For Santana, who visited South Africa in 2006, performing in the country of his personal heroes Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, is something he has wanted to do for a long time.
According to concert organisers, tickets for the band’s three consecutive shows – which cost between R510 and R850 – in Cape Town have sold out. It seems South Africans fans share the musician’s enthusiasm.
“I expected it,” Santana said.
He explained how he had met Sixto Rodriguez or, as he referred to him, “the Mexican who didn’t know he was really big in South Africa.”
Rodriquez, who is immensely popular in this country, is almost unknown in the US where he lives.
While Santana appreciated the so-called Sugar Man’s sound, he said in comparison with his own band it was very contained.
“If you like his music you are really going to love ours… Our wings are very much more expansive.
“When you listen to us you will hear Bob Marley, Miles Davis and Johnny Coltrane,” he said.
With a career stretching back to the late 1960s, 66-year-old Santana has a vast catalogue of “world” songs to work his way through. He confirmed that the classics that propelled his band into the limelight would definitely make an appearance; from the breakthrough top 10 single Evil Ways on their first album to Black Magic Woman from their album Abraxas.
The 10-time Grammy Award winner said concertgoers would be dancing, laughing and crying.
But while he writes songs to celebrate freedom fighters, visionaries and women – there is one audience category that never enters the equation, whether he’s in the studio or on stage.
“I don’t play for men,” he joked. “Men come because they know what’s happening (to the women).”
For his South African concerts, the self-confessed fan of African jazz has declared his venues an open stage for local artists.
“Anybody who wants to join us on stage can make a call and we can see what we can do,” he promised.
Santana will be playing three consecutive shows at GrandWest before travelling to Joburg where he will perform at FNB Stadium on March 1. - Cape Argus