When a lot of us hear the name Carlos Santana, we instinctively begin humming the bars to "Oye Como Va," or any one of a number of his well known songs. Associating the man with his music is natural, but as I've learned recently, he's involved in so many more projects that range from food to shoe design to international philanthropy. After my interview with him on Thursday, add one more interest to the long list: technology.
A longtime San Francisco Bay Area resident, Santana made a public appearance Thursday at a middle school in Marin county to accept a $100,000 check from Samsung and Best Buy for his Milagro Foundation, an organization that promotes the health, education, and pursuit of the arts for needy children around the world. After a handful of student performances, the presentation of the big, cardboard check and a lengthy speech by Santana, select members of the media got a chance for one-on-one interviews with him.
Dressed in white, from his woven shoes (not from his own line since as of now, he only designs styles for women) to his white suit, Santana was outgoing, warm, and open to questions of any kind. When I finally got my five minutes with him, he made great eye contact, was engaged in the conversation and stayed primarily on topic. I'm sure that makes it sound like I set a low bar for my interviews, but after you've talked to enough celebrities, you come to appreciate the candor, focus, and sincerity of a true media professional.
I was first curious to hear how technology has changed the way he makes music. After all, the man is 61 years old and a lot has changed over the five decades that he's been recording music! In answering, he drew some comparisons between the equipment he used in the 1960s when he first got started to the way his musician son Salvador records tracks now. Without completely dumping on the modern music industry, he seemed to imply that technology has sucked the creativity from some artists, giving them ways to cheat through lip-syncing or by artificially creating sounds.
We then went on to discuss the ways the Internet has changed the methods of distributing music and whether or not an artist can afford to put it online for free. Santana said he agreed with the way Metallica has handled the copyright controversy and argued that until basic commodities like milk and eggs are free, music shouldn't be either.
Before my time ran out, I was dying to hear what kind of gadget this self-described "computer geek" can't live without. All I'm going to tell you is that it's a phone; you have to watch my video to find out what kind and why he loves it so dearly. It's too bad the media coordinator was rushing us along because I sure would have loved to hear his ringtone. Black Magic Woman? Smooth?