Salvador Santana quests ‘toward individuation’

April Charmaine | Boulder Weekly

When you are the son of a living legend, like, say, Carlos Santana, anything is possible — you could turn out to be a downright raunchy and selfish individual who could care less about the world, ignoring everything you were ever exposed to … right?


We are talking Santana. Salvador Santana, whose extraordinarily diverse upbringing has inspired a signature musical style featuring the oft-underappreciated keyboard.

“When it’s presented the right way, I think it’s unlimited, the amount of things that you can create with a keyboard,” Santana says.

“The keyboard doesn’t get as much love as the other instruments do. Especially nowadays, you know Guitar Hero, Rock Band — what about Keyboard Hero or Synthesizer Hero?” he jokes.

He is certainly filling the anything-goes-21st-century musical canvas with pretty much everything that is possible. He’s mixing genres, creating something like jazzy-funk-electronica-gospel-housey-pop-spoken-word-to-your-mother mixed with love and peace and California-happiness grooves?

“Call it what you want,” he says, “I guess I’m throwing a whole bunch of different ideas and concepts at everybody with each song that is presented on Keyboard City, but it all conceptually, it all ties it together.”

When your ancestors are the likes of Saunders King, the iconic blues singer/guitarist, and Jose Santana, legendary mariachi violinist, in addition to your own father, Carlos Santana, known for selling over 90 million records worldwide, making music simply becomes a matter of lineage.

“I’m just carrying the family tradition,” he says. “The only expectation I think that there is … for me is to do my thing, not to be bigger or better than my dad or anything like that. It’s just a compliment that I’m able to do it.

“Everybody can compare and do what they would like; I’m going to make it a personal mission with whatever I do to make sure people recognize me for me and have fun with it. ‘Hey that Salvador Santana, I don’t know what the heck he was playing, but man he looked like he was having fun,’” he adds, laughing, “And that’s all that matters to me.”

Santana, who speaks highly of doing work with his father in the future, also contributed sounds for his mother, Deborah Santana’s, autobiographical audio book, Space Between the Stars. He speaks candidly about joining forces with his father and how genuinely supportive his parents are of what he calls his “quest toward individuation.”

“My dad and I have collaborated before, not too many people know this,” Santana says. “We created a song when I was in high school, it’s called, ‘El Farol.’ It wasn’t titled that yet, but we were just working on a song and on that day as we were working on it in the house — I was playing piano, he was playing the melody on guitar, and I was helping him figure out the chords — we got a call from my dad’s sister, saying that Don José, my dad’s dad, just passed away at that moment.

“My dad and I finished the song and we played it at his service. And then later on a few years down the road, that song ended up going on the Supernatural record and ended up winning best instrumental of the year.”

On Keyboard City, he had the opportunity to work with some pretty big names in the hip-hop industry, including Money Mark, known for his work with the Beastie Boys, and a remix track with GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan, whose presence in the studio made him feel like he needed to read some more, like the … dictionary.

“Getting together with Mr. Money Mark, he was kind of like a mentor and a guide. I had my hands on the wheels, so to speak, but he just kind of let me know, ‘You might want to take this road, take this exit, stay in this lane.’ Him and I getting together was predestined,” Santana says.

Santana says that he was authentically happy during the making of this album and hopes that it translates to his listeners. He says his live show is going to be a fun, positive distraction highlighting some of his favorites from the album, like “Keep Smiling.”

“As long as you keep smiling, as long as you have a smile on your face, nothing can get you down, nobody can tell you look ugly, cause that’s not possible — you’re smiling, you look beautiful,” Santana says. “I’m just trying to spread positivity and let people know that no matter what age you are, no matter where you come from … it’s cool to also be positive, it’s cool to have a smile on your face, it’s cool to be in a good mood.”

On the bill: Salvador Santana opens for The New Mastersounds at the Fox Theatre on Wednesday, March 3. Doors at 8:30 p.m. Must be 21 to enter. $12 in advance, $15 day of show. 1135 13th St., Boulder, 303-443-3399,