The Cindy Blackman Santana Conversation
BY DR. ALAN CARLOS HERNANDEZ ON SEPTEMBER 22, 2017
HOLLYWOOD (Herald de Paris) — Superstar drummer and songwriter Cindy Blackman Santana just released a new summer single, “Fun, Party, Splash,” featuring Carlos Santana and produced by Narada Michael Walden.
The past few months have been a blur for Cindy Blackman Santana. She is currently touring and performing with her husband Carlos Santana, is featured as a vocalist, drummer, and songwriter on “Power of Peace,” the new Santana/Isley Brothers collaboration, and has been busy touring with her own band and recording tracks in the studio with the legendary producer Narada Michael Walden, and through Walden’s Tarpan Records label released the new single “Fun, Party, Splash” on all digital platforms on August 25, 2017, to rave reviews.
Cindy has been creating musical time and space since the beginning of her career as a street performer in New York City in the 80’s through the present day, touring the globe and making albums at the top of her game, including the critically acclaimed Another Lifetime (2010). In addition to collaborating onstage and in-studio with her own group, also known as Another Lifetime, she has toured and recorded with artists including Pharoah Sanders, Cassandra Wilson, Bill Laswell, Joss Stone, Joe Henderson, Al B. Sure, Buckethead, Don Pullen, Hugh Masakela, Buster Williams, and Angela Bofill.
Cindy was part of the Tony Williams Lifetime Tribute Band called Spectrum Road with Jack Bruce, Vernon Reid, and John Medeski. From 1992 to 2007 and again in 2014 and 2015 she was the drummer in Lenny Kravitz’s band, performing through multiple world tours and hit albums. In 2010, she was part of the all-star line-up performing “Bitches Brew,” a tribute to Miles Davis’ seminal album staged at the San Francisco Jazz Festival and NYC Winter Jazz Fest.
Cindy has become the regular touring drummer for Santana. Having met several years earlier at a festival in Europe while she was touring with Kravitz. Cindy first played with Santana in spring 2010, when drummer Dennis Chambers had a previous commitment. “They have a great band vibe. It’s nice to play with people who have grown together, built a sound together, and stayed together,” she says. “When that happens, you can create so many different levels of communication. That’s what they’ve done, and I love reacting with it and being a part of it.”
Electricity onstage generated chemistry offstage, Carlos proposed to Cindy during a July 2010 concert, and they married in December. Looking ahead, they will collaborate artistically as well, on projects that will no doubt reflect their shared passion for improvisation, and belief in the transcendent nature of music. Cindy was an integral part of the new Santana/Isley Brothers release Power of Peace, featuring the song “I Remember,” which she wrote and sings. “To me,” she says, “Music is completely spiritual, it’s the way you connect with your higher self, with the universe. It’s also a way to share light with millions of people.
They don’t need to speak your language, have your beliefs, or be in the same place you are. The music speaks, it channels good energy, and makes a difference in people’s lives. Carlos and I are both conscious of doing that.”
Narada Michael Walden started his storied career as a drummer with John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Narada’s music flows freely from pop, rock and soul, to the rarified realms of jazz, fusion, and world music. With Jeff Beck, Narada wrote and played drums on the seminal album Wired that earned them both their first gold album. Walden was an integral part of introducing Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey to millions of fans worldwide, producing and writing their breakthrough hits. Billboard Magazine honored him as one of the Top Ten Producers of all time.
Please check out Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez interview with Narada from a few years back, HERE
In 2016, Cindy connected with her fellow drummer and world-class producer Narada Michael Walden, and together the two have been working on new material ever since. Cindy Blackman Santana continues to build a body of work and artistic legacy that make her one of the finest drummers and recording artists of this or any generation.
Born November 18, 1959 in Yellow Springs, Ohio, Blackman comes from a musical family, both her mother and grandmother were classical musicians and her uncle a vibraphone player. “My mom, when she was younger, played violin in classical orchestras, and her mom, incidentally, was a classical musician. My mom used to take me to see classical concerts,” says Blackman. “My dad was into jazz, Miles Davis, Ahmad Jamal, people like that.” Blackman’s first introduction to the drums happened when she was seven years old in her hometown of Yellow Springs, Ohio and attending a pool party at a friend’s house, she went to use the bathroom and saw a drum set and just hopped onto the set. “It was incredible”, says Blackman.” Just looking at them struck something in my core, and it was completely right from the second I saw them,” says Blackman.” And then, when I hit them, it was like, wow, that’s me. That’s completely natural for me. It’s like breathing for me. It didn’t feel awkward at all.”
After her first introduction to drums at her friend’s house, Blackman began playing in the school band and would convince her parents to get her a drum set of her own while she was still only seven. “Of course, those would be broken up in a matter of days,” Blackman says. “The only thing I heard at home was, ‘we don’t know if you can play drums because one, they’re noisy, and two, they’re very expensive.” Some people asked why she didn’t study violin or flute like other girls. “I learned very early on, when I was 13, that when I concentrate on those attitudes, I don’t make progress for myself,” says Blackman. “If they’re not paying my mortgage, I don’t care what they think.”
When Blackman was 11, she moved to Bristol, Connecticut and studied at the Hartt School of Music in Hartford, Connecticut. Blackman began to have an interest in jazz at age 13 after listening to Max Roach and got her first professional drum kit at 14. “Jazz was the thing that was most intriguing because of the challenge that was involved,” says Blackman. “When I was shown that the drummers on these records were playing independently with all four limbs, I was like, really?!? Is that what they’re doing? Is that what Max Roach is doing on that record? Oh! Okay!’”
Drummer Tony Williams was an early influence. “The first drummer I ever saw, where I got to feel the impact up close, was Tony Williams,” Blackman said. “When I was 16, Tony came to my local drum store with a bassist and did a drum clinic that left a powerful impression on me. And that’s what I thought drumming should be, drummers should have a lot of impact and a great sound, without being limited to a conventional role in the band, the drums should speak just as freely as anybody.” Blackman says that the way that Williams used all four limbs to attack the drums strongly influenced her. “I just love and loved everything about Tony”, says Blackman. “To me, not only was he a master technician, a master drummer, the innovator of the age, but also, he was a sound innovator. He had so many things that elevated the sound and the level of skill required to play this kind of music.” But although Blackman is sometimes referred to as a disciple of Tony Williams, she follows her own path. “On the one hand, it doesn’t bother me at all to be associated and in line with a master of the instrument like that. Okay, I might not be where I want to be, but I’m on the right track,” says Blackman. “On the other hand, I don’t plan on being a clone. What I’m doing is always looking to expound on something that he’s done, or push the music in a different way.”
Blackman moved to Boston to study at the Berklee College of Music with Alan Dawson, one of Tony Williams’ teachers. “Alan’s method was incredible in terms of getting your independence together, getting your hands together,” says Blackman.
While she was at Berklee a friend recommended her for a gig with The Drifters so Blackman left college after three semesters and moved to New York City in 1982. Blackman worked as a New York street performer but also got a chance to watch and learn. “I looked for Art Blakey, I looked for Elvin Jones, and I looked for Philly Joe Jones, for Roy Haynes, for Tony Williams. I saw so many great drummers, like Ed Blackwell and Billy Higgins, Louis Hayes. I saw Al Foster play quite a bit, Billy Hart, Jack DeJohnette. All these people, they’re in New York so I got a chance to watch them do their thing.”
While in New York, Art Blakey became a significant influence. “He really was like a father to me. I learned a lot just watching him. I asked him a lot of questions about the drums and music, and he answered all of them. He was fantastic,” said Blackman. Blackman initially encountered resistance to a woman playing drums in the jazz world. “I’m a black woman, so I’ve encountered racial prejudice, and I’ve encountered gender prejudice. I’ve also encountered prejudice against my afro when I wore that out. But I’ve also encountered prejudice against my musical opinions. What I’ve learned to do is completely ignore that.”
In 1984, Blackman was showcased on Ted Curson’s “Jazz Stars of the Future” on WKCR-FM in New York. In 1987, Blackman’s first compositions appeared on Wallace Roney’s Verses album. When an executive at Muse Records heard Blackman’s recordings, he offered her a recording contract to lead her own project. In 1988 Blackman released Arcane, her debut as a bandleader. Her band included Wallace Roney on trumpet, Kenny Garrett on alto saxophone, Joe Henderson on tenor saxophone, Buster Williams and Clarence Seay on bass, and Larry Willis on piano.
In 1993, Blackman had an opportunity to work with Lenny Kravitz. From New York, Blackman talked over the phone with Kravitz in Los Angeles, and played drums for him as he listened. Kravitz immediately asked Blackman to fly out to LA. “Lenny asked me can you play something for me over the phone,” Blackman says. “So I put the phone down and I started playing something like, BOOSH-bat-bat, BOOSH-BOOSH-BOOSH-bat, and I went back to the phone and I said, ‘Can you hear that?’ He said, ‘Yeah. Can you fly out to L.A. right now?’ I flew out the next morning. While I’m downstairs waiting for the instruments to come from the studio, these people started coming in. First 12, and then like 30 more. I was like, ‘whoa, this is an audition’. I ended up playing and instead of staying for one or two days, I stayed for two weeks and did the first video that I did with him, “Are You Gonna’ Go My Way.” Apart from 2004, I played with him ever since.
Blackman had previously only played jazz shows and was unprepared to play for an entire arena. “The first time I played in a really large concert with Lenny was at an outdoor festival called Pinkpop. We played for like 70,000 people. It was in the summer so most people had just t-shirts or tanks, a lot of guys had their shirts off, so you just see skin and hands and they’re doing this wave thing. I almost lost it, my equilibrium was teetering. I wasn’t used to seeing that many people; I was disoriented; I just had to stop looking and start focusing.”
Blackman’s work for Kravitz is primarily as a touring drummer, to support Kravitz in live concerts. Kravitz usually plays his own drums when recording his albums. The only Kravitz song that Blackman recorded in the studio is “Straight Cold Player” from the album 5.
In 2010 she released a first tribute album to her mentor and dominant inspiration Tony Williams. Another Lifetime featured Mike Stern on guitar and organist Doug Carn following the line-up of the original Tony Williams Lifetime. As guest musicians appear Joe Lovano, Patrice Rushen and Vernon Reid. Reid is the lead guitarist on the second Williams tribute album Spectrum Road (2012), a collaboration between Blackman, Reid, and John Medeski on organ and former bassist of Lifetime and Cream Jack Bruce. Bruce also sings on three tracks of the album and Blackman lend her voice to “Where”, originally written by John McLaughlin and sung by Williams, which already appeared on Another Lifetime in an instrumental version. She appeared at the 2011 Montreux festival, Switzerland, playing drums for husband Carlos’s one-off reunion with John McLaughlin, after which she helped mix the sound for the video.
Blackman says her goal is to become a musical virtuoso. “I want to become a virtuoso,” says Blackman. “To me, virtuosity is the ability to say anything on your instrument you want to at any given moment.” Blackman describes her music as, “Completely creative. I want to push the envelope. I want to really expound on some concepts that, to me, are the highest in the improvisation of music.” Blackman loves jazz and wants to delve into its intricacies. “Oh my gosh, it’s the best thing in the world,” says Blackman. “I feel so blessed, and I’m so thankful to be able to play music. It’s an honor, and it’s a blessing.”
On July 9, 2010, Carlos Santana proposed to Blackman on stage during a concert at Tinley Park, Illinois. Blackman is Santana’s touring drummer; he proposed right after her drum solo. They were married on Maui, Hawaii on December 19, 2010.
Blackman is a rarity as a female jazz percussionist. “In the past, there were a lot of stigmas attached to women playing certain instruments,” Blackman says. “I think a lot of women stick to particular instruments, like piano, that are acceptable, so that lessens the playing field in terms of how many women are out there. And let’s face it, boys’ clubs still exist. But I care nothing about that at all. I’m going to do what I’m going to do musically anyway.”
However, Blackman draws on the role models of her mother who played violin in an orchestra and her grandmother who was a classical pianist and does not let stereotypes deter her. “God forbid I should be limited to only play my drums in my basement; but if that’s all I had, that’s what I would do,” says Blackman. “Any woman, or anyone facing race prejudice, weight prejudice, hair prejudice … if you let somebody stop you because of their opinions, then the only thing you’re doing is hurting yourself. I don’t want to give somebody that power over me.”
Blackman is adamant that musicality has nothing to do with gender. “The gender question is not even worth bringing up because the drums have got nothing to do with gender,” Blackman says. “I’m there because I love to play music. And I’m in support of anyone who wants to play the instrument. I wouldn’t care if Art Blakey was pink with polka dots and wearing a tutu. I wouldn’t care if Tony Williams was green. There are people who have opinions about whatever and whoever, in terms of gender, in terms of race and weight, hairstyle, religion. But to me, your personality influences what you play and what you do, but everything else is for you to develop and to nourish and to take further, and that’s where I’m at. In terms of my goals, me being a female drummer has nothing to with anything except for the fact that I wear bras and panties and guys don’t.
Herald de Paris Editor Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez was honored at the opportunity to speak with Cindy.
AC: How does the fact that your mom was classical and your dad liked jazz inform your art in your new projects?
CBS: It was and is fantastic for me because I was able to hear so much different music growing up!
The beauty in each music is a part of me. Jazz is my favorite music and to me, the most innovative music improvisational music played with complete virtuosity harmonically, technically and spiritually is the highest of the high! Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Art Blakey, Bud Powell, Tony Williams , Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Billie Holiday, Ron Carter, Sonny Rollins to name some. They set the bar so high and in such a good way! It’s creative music at its best!
When I heard great classical music with all the intricate inner layering of the various instruments I loved the dimension that it brought to the music! Stravinsky, Ravel, Debussy, Mahler and the like, they brought incredible dynamics, beauty and excitement to their pieces! So, to have both of those worlds to listen to was and is a major source of inspiration for me!
AC: You have a substantial musical education. How important is it nowadays to have a solid musical educational background in the music industry?
CBS: I feel that it’s very important!
You must know what you’re dealing with. Some say that they don’t want to deal with commercialism but, as soon as you sell one album, cd or even a t-shirt advertising what you’re doing, you’ve become commercial! So, in order to know what the best platforms are and how to navigate through them, it’s a good idea to have an understanding of the music business, or at least a team that does! That way you can make informed decisions about what you will or won’t do and about what might be your best course of action. Things change a lot, especially with the internet so there’s always something new to learn and check out!
AC: What are some of the interesting things you remember from Berklee College of Music? Are any of your contemporaries working in the industry right now?
CBS: Most interesting to me about Berklee was that it had such an eclectic student body! There were students from all over the world and so thus many different genres available to play in! The community was thriving and that was a great inspiration! And yes sure, many of my contemporaries are in the industry and doing very well! We were all, for the most part, very serious about music and very serious about being musicians.
AC: Tell us about your experiences as a street musician?
CBS: Playing in the street was great for many reasons! We played five days a week for about seven hours each day and barely took breaks! And that was fantastic because it was like getting two days of playing done in one day! You can make a lot of progress that way! It was also amazing because we played with great musicians!!!!
George Braith on his double saxophone, the Braithophone, was the band leader and we had Tommy Turentine on trumpet, Kim Clark or Marcus McLourin on bass, Larry Smith on alto and I also played out there with Vince Herring and as well with Steve Coleman. It didn’t matter that we were playing on the street, what mattered was the music!
There were many surprises too! Dexter Gordon came and listened to us one day! There were a bunch of homeless guys hanging out too and you know, they weren’t always homeless and many had incredible stories about the jazz scene!
A movie producer came out one day and the next day we were filmed for the Robin Williams movie Moscow on the Hudson!
Very interesting times!
AC: It is said that Jazz is one of the few true American art forms, what is it about Jazz that allows one to express themselves in an expansive way?
CBS: Well it is! And jazz is all about expressing in the moment! It takes knowledge, discipline, taste and imagination to improvise over forms and stretch the boundaries of harmony and rhythm while still respecting those forms and the other musicians! Jazz not only LETS you do that but, in its highest form, it REQUIRES that you do that so that you can stretch boundaries. It inspires creativity, individuality and innovation! It is controlled freedom. It is creation of texture, melody, harmony, rhythm, dynamics, technique, imagination and so much more that is unexplainable! It is diving into the deep ‘unknown’ as the great Wayne Shorter calls it. It is the gateway to divine art! So, expressing oneself in an expansive way is not only encouraged or allowed but, it’s necessary! And that is why I love it!
AC: Why do you think jazz is not as popular in the US, as it is around the world?
CBS: Oooooh there are several reasons for that in my opinion. I feel that it’s part racial. Jazz is everyone’s music and I love all the incredible contributions made regardless of someone’s race, creed, culture or gender, BUT, it was created by black people! It is the highest American musical art form but credit must be given to black Americans to fully acknowledge this, and that is hard for a society with so much racial tension to do. It’s unfortunate! One people please!
And at the same time, we are thankful to other cultures that have embraced the beauty of jazz! Europe and Japan are not shy about showing their love & respect for this great art form! Over all, they are not so hung up in their egos that they can’t love the music. And jazz is a music that inspires individuals & individuality. Individual thinking cannot easily be controlled nor locked up in a box! So there, I said it! You want to break the chains of mass hypnosis and the mindset of conveyer belt and cookie cutter mentality, put on some Bird, Miles, Coltrane or some Tony Williams! Bird with Strings, Fille De Kilimanjaro, A Love Supreme or Emergency, those will get your mind buzzing in creativity!
I love all kinds of music please understand, but thinking creatively puts your brain and spirit on the path of creative thinking in a way that is different from other mediums and things that inspire it.
AC: How hard was it to transition from jazz, to working with Lenny Kravitz?
CBS: I grew up with all kinds of music in my house, everything from Miles to the Beatles, and Stravinsky to James Brown, so playing with Lenny was not a stretch for me in that way and we love a lot of the same music so there were enough commonalities to have had great musical common ground and enough differences to keep it interesting.
I had to discover what he was looking for and what was important to him but like I said, we loved a lot of the same music so that was a binding element. We also logged in lots of playing hours which also helped the music soar.
AC: Tell us about going from obscurity to that monumental video with Lenny?
CBS: You know, Lenny and I became like brother and sister. But at first, I didn’t know who he was! He used to laugh at me saying ‘ you didn’t know what you were stepping into did you!’ And he was right, I didn’t! Haaaa!
When I first played with him it turned out to be an audition and I liked playing with him, Craig Ross and the band but as I said, I didn’t know very much about him or what he had done so my liking them was very innocently honest!
I wasn’t kissing up or even trying to get a gig, I was having fun, that fun did turn into a gig. Because two weeks later after we filmed that first video ‘Are You Gonna Go My Way’, he asked me if I wanted to join the band and I said yes, when do we start, he laughed and said, ‘we started two weeks ago’. That was all very monumental for me though I didn’t realize right away because I was focused on the music. After it happened though, it put me on the map in ways that I hadn’t experienced before.
Most important I was playing!
It gave me independence and a great ability to take care of myself and help my family too! And I loved the tours and the playing it but it was never an ego thing for me. It was me being able to do what I love best, play the drums & with a great band. I love traveling so it enabled me to do that as well.
AC: How does commercial fame effect a true artist? Does it detract or does it open doors for more creativity?
CBS: in my opinion, if a musician is true to the music and truly loves the music, commercial success opens doors to do more of what you do and dies not detract. It’s all subjective though dependent on the individual’s personality, goals and desires on and off the bandstand.
AC: You say, you love “To drive an audience of 100,000 into complete oblivion” where does the passion come from, does it come from a socio-cultural or spiritually informed frame of mind?
CBS: For me that passion comes mainly from a spiritual place because when you unlock the door for someone to feel their own heart center they will raise their vibration because they feel good, feeling good leads to feeling love inside and after that, it’s easier to feel love externally, to feel it towards others, this is not only beautiful but needed!
This is one of the incredible elements of music! It is the most amazing communicator and bridge to bring people together.
AC: Tell us a little about the Tony Williams tribute album?
CBS: Sacred Sounds Label? The record that I did in Tribute to Tony Williams was on Four Quarters Records called Another Lifetime. It featured Mike Stern, Benny Rietveld, Doug Carn, Vernon Reid, Patrice Rushen, David Santos and Joe Lovano.
It was great because we played some Tony material but added some other twists and turns.
His music is so innovative and so exciting and soooo much fun to play. My live band members are: Aurelien Budynek, Rashaan Carter Ira Felix Pastorius and Zaccai Curtis.
I was also a member of Spectrum Road which was a Tony Williams Lifetime Tribute started by Vernon Reid and featured the late great Jack Bruce and John Medeski.
Playing with them was abating and Jack, oh my goodness, incredible! And he LOVE, LOVE, LOVED Tony so he had many beautiful stories for us and shared his sentiments often!
AC: Who are your heroes?
CBS: My Heroes are: My Grandmothers, my mother, my sisters and my brother, my husband, my two nieces and my three nephews. Art Blakey, Miles Davis, Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, Billie Holiday, Bruce Lee, Max Roach, Malcolm X, Vincent Van Gogh, Leonardo Da Vinci, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane…and that’s the short list! Haaaaa! But each one has done something incredible because they’ve defied gravity!
AC: You spoke of wanting to be a “virtuoso” can this be attained as a member of a group or is it something can be more easily attained by doing one’s own projects?
CBS: It can absolutely be attained as a sideman or a band leader, it just depends on who you’re playing with and how you apply yourself.
AC: Which are the solo projects so far that you are most proud of and what kinds of things do you hope to do in the future?
CBS: I’m really proud of my very first band called Spontaneous Combustion back in my Boston days! We had no chains on the music and we were totally free to create! I’m very proud of my later groups too! My quartet in the 90’s was also very courageous!
My electric band is awesome and I’m very proud of them, we play with a caution to the wind attitude every time we get together and I love that! I am also very proud of my current project! The record has six or seven vocal songs produced by Narada Michael Walden and the music is slammin’! There are also incredible instrumentals and I’m very proud of them! Amazing musical contributions by Carlos Santana, John McLaughlin, Vernon Reid, Matt Garrisson, Benny Rietveld, Neal Evans, Buster Williams, Bill Ortiz, Aurelien Budynek, Rashaan Carter & Zaccai Curtis!
I really look forward to touring this music.
I want to do something with strings too and an acoustic record!
AC: What are some of your favorite compositions, would you like someday to produce new artists?
CBS: You mean some of my favorite compositions ever? Blue & Green, Nefertiti, A love supreme , Pee wee, Dolphin Dance, Portia, ‘Round Midnight, Hittin on Six, I have a dream , Vuelta Abajo, Oh Yahwe, Pavane Pour Infante Defunte, Adagio in G minor( Thomas Albinoni), Fall Foot Prints, The Soothsayer, Believe it, I mean you…. I could keep going you know!
Regarding production, I had the pleasure of co-producing a really great singer from Portugal by the name of Aurea. Her record is called Restart, she is fantastic and I really enjoyed the process of playing on and producing her record! If I were interested enough in what someone is doing I could see myself doing that again yes.
AC: Who do you listen to?
CBS: I listen to Miles Davis, Tony Williams, John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, Ravel, Stravinsky, Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, Bob Marley & so much more! I also listen to the wind, the rain, birds chirping, even creaks in the house!
AC: Why did you agree to become a part of the Santana band, when you had a significant career already in progress? What did you bring to the table? What was your goal in becoming a part of this institution?
CBS: My career is not hustled or in jeopardy by playing in this band! I have a new record coming out and I play with my band as well as sideman projects too. I agreed to play in the Santana band because they play with so much energy and spirit! And Carlos WANTS me and everyone to play a lot, he doesn’t want anyone to coast. I love that energy and I love his playing so it’s a win-win situation!
AC: What is the best and worst part of being a Santana member?
CBS: The best part is playing exciting music with great musicians, one of whom is my husband! The worst part is…. there is no worst part.
AC: How is the Santana musical experience different from working with Lenny Kravitz or doing straight up jazz gigs?
CBS: Well, you’re talking great total different animals!
In the Santana band, there is a lot of freedom to interject and to build off of established grooves and to create new and different statements and energies nightly!
In one set you play everything from a Guairá, to a funk groove, to a fast samba to a ballad, to an up-tempo swinging feel and then, take a drum solo.
And you play Santana songs but also “A Love Supreme”, “Higher Ground” and other songs. This music soars!!!!
The Lenny situation is great because that is a groove oriented band! You play grooves with intense energy and passion! You take a beat and, and play it with heart making the music sail.
In a jazz gig, the ones I like best anyway, you play any and everything and of course with intelligence, passion, fire and taste. Creativity, improvisation, musicality, interjection and musical conversation! Pushing the envelope and jumping off a bridge into a sea of cotton candy!
AC: We are living in incredibly devise and racially charged times, can what you do musically and the way you do it be an inspiration to others? What needs to be said right now through art?
CBS: Yes, we are and yes it can! Music is a great soother and I’d say the best one! You can reach oriole no matter what their location, race, color, religion, gender or culture! In the art of music, we just need to open our hearts and highest vibrations into it and that will be felt and that feeling will promote higher vibrational energy to people. And for music with lyrics, we need positivity not negative or cruel messages. Promote and exude what you want yourself and your loved ones to experience!
AC: Carlos once told me in a radio interview that, “There is music that inspires and that there is music that incites”. Can inciting positive action though music be possible?
CBS: Yes, it absolutely can!
Words are powerful and so are feelings. So, when there are lyrics, have them say things to ignite inspiration and when there are not lyrics, have the music touch hearts and do the same. It makes a huge difference!
AC: As an artist how would you describe Carlos Santana, how do you inspire each other?
CBS: Carlos is amazing because he puts his whole heart into everything he plays! He loves Melody and he makes every note count! He sings with his guitar and you can feel it in all that he does. He is very dedicated to music & I am too so we inspire each other with our passion for music, our desire to play and our intense love for melody, harmony and rhythm!
AC: Tell us about your recent project with the Isley Brothers, what was that like, what was the vision for that project what was your role in the effort?
CBS: The Power of Peace is an amazing record and making it was such a great experience! Ronnie and Ernie Isley felt like family to us and the process of making music was very smooth. We, the Isley’s and the Santana band, recorded 16 songs in 4 days! The vision that Carlos had for this record was to create amazing vistas for Ronnie to sing over and to present an awe-inspiring message, thus, The Power of Peace!
My role was as the drummer and as well when Carlos mentioned playing “Higher Ground” I hoped we’d do it differently so, I asked him if he would be into trying it another way rather than rehash the way everyone always plays it. He agreed and asked me to go to the drums and show him what I meant. I played a funk groove and he says he loved it, so that’s how we recorded it!
I also had a beautiful and scary first! I had written a song that I wanted Ronnie to sing! We played my demo of it that I sang. He said he liked it but felt that a woman should sing it. He made a suggestion of who he thought would be a good choice to sing it but Carlos said, “No, no! Cindy’s gonna sing it with you!”
Well, though nervous as heck, I did sing it with him!!!! That was actually the precursor to me singing on my upcoming new record!
AC: Tell us about the new summer single “Fun, Party, Splash” what was the vision of this project? What can people expect?
CBS: Thanks for asking! That is a very happy song meant to allow you to release negativity and enjoy some moments of fun! This song is not for mature audiences only! It’s a song that anyone of any age can be inspired by! My 11 year old niece and her friends love it and dance to it and so does my mom! Listeners can expect to feel good when they hear it!
“Fun, Party, Splash” was released on August 25th and it precedes my new record which has about six more great vocal songs, plus incredible instrumentals!
AC: As an artist how would you describe Narada? What makes him such a successful producer? What did he bring out in you?
CBS: Narada is incredible because he has great ears, great sense of musical direction and he is very good at bringing out the best in a person! He is an awesome drummer and he also has a great sense of melody. After hearing ‘I remember’ that I sang in the Power of Peace record he said he wanted to produce me. I said no, you’re kidding! He said no, I’m not kidding. I said yeah but I’m not a singer, he said yes you are and I can produce you, trust me! Well Carlos said the same thing so, I trusted and now we have a wonderful selection of music that will be released soon!!!!
AC: What are some of the other things you are working on right now?
CBS: Finishing my record, recording the new Santana record and I also go back into the studio with Clifford Lamb and Buster Williams to record a second record with Clifford!
AC: What are things musically or personally you intend to accomplish over the next few years?
CBS: More recording with my band, Carlos and other projects. Learning more about composition and doing more writing, playing with strings, continuing with my vocal study.
AC: What advice would you give young women starting out who want to play the drums and view you as a role model?
CBS: Be a drummer, don’t be a girl drummer. Do it because you love it and don’t get caught up in anyone else’s opinion about what you’re doing or whether or not you should be doing it! Study the greats and, have fun!!!!
AC: One hundred years from now, when people look back on your life and art, ideally what would you like your legacy to be?
CBS: That I was a courageous musician who brought adventure, excitement, innovation and joy to the music and to the hearts of the listeners.
Thank you so much for this beautiful opportunity to express myself about the music and life!
To order the “FUN, PARTY, SPLASH” single on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/fun-party-splash-single/id1269743526?app=itunes or http://smarturl.it/funpartysplash
For more information about Cindy Blackman Santana, please visit her social media pages or Website: http://www.cindyblackmansantana.com/