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Carlos Santana: "I still have a burning desire to improve this world"

Santana will be performing at Marenostrum Castle Park.
Santana will be performing at Marenostrum Castle Park. / EFE/EPA/CHRISTOPH SCHMIDT
  • The guitarist and composer, who is performing in Fuengirola on 9 August, wants his music to bring "light" in dark times; "Trump represents the vortex of fear," he says

There is a spiritual aspect to every answer he gives, whether he is talking about reggaeton or Donald Trump. The legendary Mexican musician behind Carlos Santana's guitar has just celebrated his 71st birthday, has deep faith and has never lost hope or his wish to "improve the world" through his music. On 9 August, this ten-time Grammy winner will be lighting up the Marenostrum Castle Park venue in Fuengirola, on the hill below the Sohail castle, with his timeless hits.

Belated congratulations for your 71st birthday. What's good about getting older?

It means crystalising, purifying, making stronger my attitude to such a long life filled with blessings and miracles. It means having health, energy and achieving your dreams. Every year for me is a step forward.

Are there still steps you want to take? It seems as if you have done everything already and fulfilled all your dreams.

No, I still have a burning desire to improve this world. The principles of Bob Marley and John Lennon are also my principles; we want to use music to relieve, heal, educate, provide food, clothes, and give hope, joy and strength to people.

Does music have that sort of power?

Absolutely, without a doubt. Music is an art which penetrates people's hearts and lights up their mind so they think differently, not as victims or villains, but with victory of spirit.

As the father of Latin rock, what is that genre's state of health? Do you like how it has evolved?

I like everything that has a heart and integrity and is done because someone wants to do it.

But these days it seems reggaeton has become more popular than Latin rock...

Some things come and go faster than others, and some things stay. For example, with all respect, there are plenty of gypsies but the ones people still listen to are Django Reinhardt, Manitas de Plata and Paco de Lucía. Their sound is immortal. What stays is the music that comes solely to bring unity and harmony to the world.

Do you believe reggaeton is a passing fashion?

Not necessarily. It is a delicious rhythm and a magnet for people. Reggaeton would be better if someone gave it words with substance and spiritual principles.

That is a common criticism of the genre, the simple words and touches of chauvinism in some cases.

It all depends on who is doing it and for what reason. In my case, the reasons aren't superficial or temporary. We are not desperate for people to watch and admire us. Some people want instant success, like instant coffee. I'm not saying that's bad, but it would be better if women and men were to write lyrics to this rhythm which opened people's minds. Because people need a great deal of hope and light. This is a very dark world; there is a lot of fear and separation.

Is the Latin community still feeling fear in the USA?

No , not in the USA. Everywhere in the world. The stupidity of darkness, the fear, doesn't just belong to the USA. Every nation is infected by the concept that nobody is worthy of God's grace and that we are all stained by sin. And this is a very negative concept. You can't fly if your wings are clipped. Jesus Christ used to say when he was meditating alone, "I am what I am; I am the light."

You are a man of deep faith. Has it guided you in a world such as yours, which is so competitive?

Yes, how could it not? Having faith and hope is to have other very strong internal muscles, which mean you can deal with everything.

It seems symbolic that you played the Star Spangled Banner at the NBA finals. Was that a message for Donald Trump?

For me, and I say this clearly, with security and with humility, no other group represents the world like Santana. Many represent the USA, many represent Spain, others France, Africa... my music represents the whole world, I am a citizen of the planet. I'm someone who, when he plays, thanks to God, every heart is attentive, waiting to receive a message which comes not from me, it comes from above me. And the message is that you too can make miracles and blessings. Every person is built with love. Faith, hope and spiritual conviction help you so you can make a complete transformation.

Trump would like that.

What is most effective is that millions of people pray to change his heart. As the saying goes, it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. He represents the 'vortex' of fear.

You have made a documentary about Dolores Huertas, a pioneer in the fight for civil rights. Is that your grain of sand in the revolution that women are carrying out now?

I love the fact that my mother, sisters, daughters and my wife flourish with their dreams. We are one. It is important to teach children when they are very young to treat others with honour and respect, not as if they were a chair or a mule. Treating women with respect and honour makes you more of a man. Chauvinistic people are slobs, assholes and crude. A real man treats a woman like a queen and a goddess.

Your wife, Cindy Blackman, accompanies you on the drums.

I love people to see her play because their mouths drop open and their eyes get very wide. They can't believe that a woman can play so fast, so strongly, with so much heart and intelligence.

When someone calls you a legend and a god of the guitar, do you have to distance yourself from such praise?

Oh yes, definitely. I have always said that the public are the flowers, music is the water and I'm just the hosepipe.