June 4, 2019 Santana – Africa Speaks (Album Review)
Pioneering a fusion of Rock-n-Roll and Latin American Jazz, Carlos Santana is a man that does not need much of an introduction. Becoming a living legend, working for over 5 decades with a unique sound that features his melodic, Blues-based guitar style against Latin and African rhythms, while played on percussion instruments such as timbales and congas, there truly is no one like Santana.
Unique to others in Rock, Carlos Santana has excelled with the art form, worked with countless musicians and creates timeless music along the way. Now as active as any other point in his career, he returns with his band on the new album, Africa Speaks, set for release on Friday, June 7th via Concord Records.
His milestone 25th studio album with Santana, as the title indicates, Africa Speaks is inspired by the sounds and rhythms of Africa. A follow-up to 2016’s Santana IV, the story goes Carlos and his eight-piece band, including his wife Cindy Blackman Santana on drums, convened at Rick Rubin’s Shangri La Studios in Malibu to record the new album. What happened in a 10-day period is something magical, as they recorded 49 tracks, many of them in one take! From there making the difficult decision to whittle down the pile, they came up with 11 choice cuts to make up Africa Speaks. Now, it is up to you, the listener, to decide if the right songs made the final list.
Mystical in many ways, like Santana’s previous works, with Africa Speaks, you can feel and hear the African elements vividly. As mentioned, presented as an 11 song record, it consists of tracks filled with brilliant guitar riffs that seem endless and wide – almost like the wide nature in Africa. That said, each song also includes some native singing and rhythms. In addition, much of the lyrics are in Spanish, sung primarily by Spanish Singer Buika throughout the album, successfully fusing Latino and African culture into one tightly knit collection.
For example, “Bembele” and “Candombe Cumbele” are purely African songs, with African vocals and rhythms. Then, on the other hand, “Oye Este Mi Canto” and “Yo Me Lo Merezco” have more of the Latino vibe, but by some twist of fate, you can find both influences in all songs. This in mind, on some songs the cultures are equally strong, while other times one weighs heavier than the other. Regardless of the balance, all the songs consist of brilliant musicianship that is mesmerizing.
Which leads us to the musical arranging, which is without question well-balanced and appealing to the ears and tastes of many. Matching diverse vocals and simple instrumental arrangements, song by song you are taken deeper and deeper into a world Santana creates; a world where the melodies are unforgettable and rhythms are irresistible. This is true on songs like “Blue Skies,” featuring UK Singer Laura Mvula, which creates a vision of words colliding and unifying together, as well as the musical bliss of others such as “Breaking Down the Door,” featuring Carlo’s son Salvador on keys.
Like brother and sister peacefully playing together, in truth, each of the 11 songs carry their own whimsical spirit. That in mind, Africa Speaks is an album that gives an often unsung culture a voice and hope for a more harmonious future. A super interesting concept that captures you for well over one hour, Cryptic Rock gives this album 4 out of 5 stars.
Purchase Africa Speaks: