Oye Como Va

In which Carlos Santana introduces Latin jazz to the rock world. It’s likely safe to say that most of the kids who came to Woodstock didn’t come to hear Tito Puente covers. Santana’s stroke of genius was that he took something both stodgy (jazz) and exotic (Latino rhythms) and incorporated it into the rock biosphere, bridging cultural and generational divides. And, on a rock scene still heavily dominated by blues purists, it was really a radical idea. The bridging moved in more than one direction. Besides bringing to the young masses a whole new musical culture, Santana also showed that rock music wasn’t some simplistic, isolated youth fad; rock music had room for infinite improvisation, it could absorb from any culture. The success of fusion music was also the success of fusion identity; one could be a rock star, and a jazz aficionado, and a proud Latino, and a purveyor of fine Tequilas. It’s a multicultural world now, and world music is everywhere, and we can forgive Carlos Santana for not choosing his collaborators as wisely as he used to, because he pioneered the idea of playing all of the different kinds of music as if they were all one long continuum. Play the music you like, was Santana’s message, and you’re allowed to like more than one thing.



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