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Taken from Las Cruces Sun-News (Sep 16, 2011)

One with Santana: "Sound of Collective Consciousness" tour comes to Don Haskins

by Doug Pullen, El Paso Times

Michael FrantiCarlos Santana says his "Sound of Collective Consciousness" tour, which comes to El Paso's Don Haskins Center tonight, is all about lifting hearts, minds and spirits.

"The more I see, the more I know that intrinsically and intricately we are one," he said.

"The evil in the mind always tries to separate us and distance us as superior and inferior, but we are all connected. That's why I call it collective consciousness."

The 64-year-old guitar great and bandleader tries to remind us of that first with his music, then with his activism. He first put that philosophy into play when he was a teenaged phenom, bursting out of San Francisco's fertile rock scene in the late 1960s with an unprecedented fusion of Latin rhythms and percussion, rock dynamics, jazz improvisation and blues feel.

When Santana and his multi-ethnic band hit the stage tonight for their first El Paso show in three years, he hopes to raise consciousness in visceral and cerebral ways.

"That's what our goal is," he said from his home in Las Vegas. "We like to ignite people. When you ignite people with sound resonance vibrations, they remember the forgotten song inside of them. All of a sudden, they are worth more than what their bank account says, or their wallet or house. It's significant and meaningful, with a deep sense of self- worth."

That's pretty lofty talk for a guy who has had commercial radio hits, including "Smooth," his 1999 No. 1 collaboration with Matchbox Twenty singer Rob Thomas; blazed musical trails with career-defining songs like "Oye Como Va," "Evil Ways" and "Black Magic Woman"; won 10 Grammys; and become a pitchman for everything from women's shoes to tequila.

Santana, who aligned himself with human rights causes early in his career, said he tries to put his money where his activist mouth is.

"It's all energy to me," he said.

Money he makes from those products, he said, goes to the Milagro Foundation, the charitable organization he founded in 1998 with his first wife. It funds programs for "underserved and vulnerable children around the world," according to its website.

Some of that money goes into grants to promote education, something Santana thinks has been lost in the downward spiral of drug cartel-fueled violence in Mexico, where he was born.

"The more you see violence, it's because the people are not educated," he said.

Giving people knowledge, he said, promotes a respect for life. "Life has meaning to you.

It's precious. You never want to hurt anyone by taking their lives," he explained. "The war about drugs is intrinsically connected with the lack of education."

Santana supports legalizing marijuana, which he said would suck millions of dollars out of the hands of drug lords and into promoting education and schools.

"The more you educate a sister or a brother, whether they are poor white or poor Mexican or black," he said, "the more that person has a sense of self-worth and (they) don't want to deal with violence because ... education helps you to really value you and everybody else."

Fellow Bay Area resident Michael Franti, the 45-year-old singer and musician who is opening the tour, groups Santana in with musical icons who have led with their hearts.

"He's such a legendary figure in the community, both as a musician (and) as a human rights activist," Franti said from a tour stop in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. "To me, he's always been one of those figures, like John Lennon or Johnny Cash or Bob Marley, somebody like that who is just so huge."

Franti has been joining Santana for a couple of songs each night, usually selections from Marley, Marvin Gaye or Kool and the Gang. "To be able to play with him every night and sing onstage with him, be around him and watch what he does, is just a blessing," Franti said.

They'd only met briefly a few times before the tour. Franti sent Santana a few texts in the runup to its kickoff in August. "He wrote back to me like he was on fire, ready to change the face of music, like he was 21 years old," Franti said. "He still has that."

Franti, who is recording the followup to last year's "The Sound of Sunshine" on this tour, is not Santana's only special guest. Santana has been doing selected dates with old friend and comedian George Lopez in what they're calling the "Divine Rascals" tour.

"He has a gift - you know, it's really a gift to make people laugh, and I think the real genius is he's a real healer with his comedy," Santana said.

He noted that his buddy is an "equal opportunity" comedian who "slams" everybody in an effort to make us laugh at ourselves.

Santana isn't laughing about the new music he's been working on for the follow-up to last year's rock-oriented "Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics of All Time."

"I've been playing a lot of music that wants to come out now," he said, "a combination of ... some Spanish; some, like Metallica, is heavy rock; and a lot of it is African music from '72 to '77, like African people were listening to."

Santana believes he's been able to tap into a world consciousness by making art that crosses cultural barriers, just like Michael Jackson and martial arts legend Bruce Lee did.

"Collective consciousness," he said, "means that some artists and musicians are able to hit everyone in the heart across the board."

Doug Pullen may be reached at dpullen@elpasotimes.com; 546-6397. Read Pullen My Blog at elpasotimes.com/blogs.




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