EW talks to ''Supernatural'' musician Santana. And to those who doubt that he can deliver another hit, we say don't squeeze the shaman.
Carlos Santana
Credit: Carlos Santana: Len Irish/Corbis Outline


”If you want to be successful, just meditate, man. God will tell you what people need and all of a sudden you’ll be in demand. Just ask God how you can serve humanity in mass quantities.” — Carlos Santana

Heaven must be something like this. Standing high atop a mountain in Montecito, Calif., Oct. 8, Carlos Santana is taking blissful stock of his surroundings. The sun-kissed air smells ambrosial. The bird’s-eye view of the countryside is the definition of breathtaking. Close your eyes and you can almost hear angels singing.

Open them again and, in actuality, you’ll find Santana encamped in the lavish backyard of a $7 million mansion. The owner, a friend of his publicist, has made the property available for the afternoon so that Santana can take care of decidedly earthbound business — a photo shoot and interview. Santana ponders the most suitable setting for his talk with a journalist.

”Is the meditation area available?” he asks his host.

But of course. In fact, the miniature waterfall can even be turned off so the noise won’t prove a distraction.

Under the watchful gaze of three stone Buddhas, Santana, perhaps deciding that the meditation mats should be saved for more sacred purposes, settles down on a wooden bench to talk about his just-released album, ”Shaman,” the follow-up to 1999’s megaplatinum ”Supernatural.” In a few hours, the 55-year-old musician will perform a rousing high-energy show at the nearby Santa Barbara Bowl, but you’d never guess it from his demeanor. Clad in a wool knit cap, lace-free sneakers, and a T-shirt sporting images from the cover of his 1970 album, ”Abraxas,” the laid-back Santana seems to embody the spiritual axiom Seek to wear life like a loose garment.

Firstly, he wants to correct any misconceptions about what his new album is and is not.

”’Shaman’ is not about music. Neither was ‘Supernatural.”’

Come again?

”Stravinsky, Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Charlie Parker, John Lee Hooker, Miles Davis — they were about music,” he says. ”They were playing music of the spheres — the Top 40 of the galaxy. I don’t play that. I wish I could. That music is like an ocean — I’m a lake or a swimming pool. Their music will be around in 500 years. I’m not sure what I do will last that long.”

But what about those 25 million people worldwide who made ”Supernatural” one of the best-selling albums of all time? Surely they think he makes music — and good music, at that.

He grins and offers an alternative definition of his craft: ”What I do is about collective consciousness vibration.”

Embarrassing flashback no. 37: It’s late 1998, some months before the release of ”Supernatural.” The news that then-Arista Records chief Clive Davis — the guy who signed Santana to Columbia Records way back in 1969 — is midwifing a new Santana album featuring guest stars like matchbox twenty’s Rob Thomas, the Fugees’ Wyclef Jean, and rap-folkie Everlast has inspired a chorus of derisive snorts from the hard-nosed staff of Entertainment Weekly’s music department. The jokes come faster than you can say ”Oye como va.”

Four years later, we’re still wiping the egg off our faces. ”Supernatural,” and its inescapable hit single ”Smooth” (featuring Rob Thomas), went on to garner a head-spinning nine Grammy awards, and made the ’60s survivor the comeback story of the decade. Santana famously attributed his unexpected midlife career resurgence to an angel named Metatron who, he says, prophesied his return to stardom.

The operative question for Metatron now is, can ”Shaman” — which follows ”Supernatural”’s blueprint of May-December creative marriages between Santana and the likes of Michelle Branch, Macy Gray, Seal, P.O.D., and others — follow its predecessor even halfway into the multiplatinum stratosphere?

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