sun 14/07/2024

CD: Santana – Africa Speaks | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Santana – Africa Speaks

CD: Santana – Africa Speaks

The legendary guitarist gets personal and has fun doing it

You hear a lot about living legends, but there aren’t actually that many around – at least not since the first half of 2016. Carlos Santana, however, definitely fits the bill. From his early days stealing the show at Woodstock alongside drummer Michael Shrieve, to achieving bone fide icon status for his pioneering work in the field of fusion solos, he’s at a stage where he can do pretty much whatever he wants. 

This makes the intent and wide-reaching scope of Africa Speaks all the more impressive, and Santana’s claim that this is a project born out of a love and obsession for the music of Africa one that should be taken at face value. 

Working with producer Rick Rubin, Santana and his band apparently recorded an astonishing 49 songs in an almost unbelievable 10 days. Although only 11 of those have made the cut here, the process has resulted in a rawness and sense of spontaneity that is mirrored in the extraordinary tone of Santana’s vocalist of choice, Spanish singer Buika. 

Much of Africa Speaks harks back to what we could comfortably call Santana’s heyday, many songs here allow the rhythm to take over, giving Santana’s distorted guitar tone  a proper party at which to hold court. Fast-paced follow-up “Batonga” along with the falling-down-funk of album closer “Candombe Cumbele” are key cases in point. No one holds back, there’s no sense of easing off to let someone show off, this is en masse virtuoso playing from all quarters. It gives very little time for the listener to catch breath, going instead for a sense of relentless musical intoxication. 

There are quieter moments, of course. “Oye Este Mi Canto” provides a fragile gentle respite – albeit one with an absolutely enormous, heavy funk interlude slapped right in the middle of it. 

The real surprise here though is “Yo Me Lo Merezco”. The opening guitar riff appears to channel the spirit of Africa via mid-80s Jesus and Mary Chain, and although Buika’s commanding voice soon changes the song’s topography completely, something remains… something audible throughout this record, no matter how big the swells or how quiet the drops. 

It’s the sound of people having fun.


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