Bangalore: When Carlos Santana, number 15 on the Rolling Stones magazine list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time, took the stage at an open air concert venue in Bangalore on Friday evening, the small trickle of people that had started pouring in since afternoon had reached a healthy crowd of over 3,000 people.
Dressed in a white shirt and a pair of white trousers, the pioneer of rock-latin-jazz fusion music enthralled the audience over the next two and half hours with his trademark melodic, blues-based guitar playing that he has become synonymous with ever since he broke into the scene at Fillmore West in 1966. Of course, the decisive break came three years later when he played at Woodstock. The 'Soul Sacrifice' generation was presumably well represented in Bangalore, men in their greying beards who managed to sneak in smokes into the venue. It was an unreal experience for many, to see the guitar god perform in person in an Indian city.
As trademark numbers like 'Oye Como Va', 'Samba Pa Ti', 'Esperando' and 'Europa' started flowing, the crowd found it hard to keep their feet grounded. With Karl Perazzo creating magic on the percussions and drums legend Dennis Chambers on his finger freeway, an Indian audience swayed like the Latins would.
For the young in the crowd, whose recall of Carlos Santana is limited to the 2000s, there was 'Maria Maria'. And it was 'Smooth' too, just like the ocean under the moon.
And of course, there was 'Black Magic Woman', the Peter Green-Fleetwood Mac number that has become a Carlos Santana preserve ever since he played the number. The nimble, melodic guitar strain broke into the trademark frenetic rhythm; people simply went crazy and foot-tapping fifty-five year olds were giving the gyrating 20-somethings a good run.
Santana’s second wife Cindy Blackman took a drums solo, assisted briiliantly by bassist Benny Reitveld. Her husband soon joined in what seemed like an impromptu jam. Jeff Cressman enthralled the audience with a pulsating trombone performance.
There was the typical Carlos Santana talk: about peace, about the world being one family, about divine intervention and Bob Marley’s one world. Santana started turning spiritual in the 1980s when he came in touch with Sri Chinmaya, the Bengali-Hindu Godman. He was rechristened Carlos Devadip Santana. It reflected a significant departure from his psychedelic drug-induced days. The two would eventually break their ties but that has never stopped Carlos from greeting his audience with the customary Hindu pranam. And Bangalore was no exception. The 65-year-old winner of 10 Grammys delivered his customary sermon.
By the time the lights were turned off and people headed towards the parking lot, the primeval beats of ‘Ji-Go-Lo-Ba’ and ‘Soul Sacrifice’ were still reverberating in their hearts and minds.