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Carlos Santana Embraces Latin Roots with ‘Corazon’

Forty-five years after he went from being a virtual unknown to an international superstar by way of Woodstock, Carlos Santana continues to expand his horizons. “Corazon,” Santana’s latest album being released May 6 on RCA/Sony Music Latin, will finally allow the Mexican guitar god to embrace his Latin heritage in a big way.

For “Corazon” (or “Heart”), Santana assembled a list of Latin music all-stars who joined him in the studio and onstage at a concert taped Dec. 14 in Guadalajara, Mexico, for the HBO special “Corazon, Live From Mexico: Live It to Believe It,” which will air May 3 on HBO Latino. He’s joined by Gloria Estefan, Miguel, Juanes, Romeo Santos, Samuel Rosa and others all singing in their native Spanish.

“We just did our best to get out of the way of the music,” says Santana, who begins a lengthy North American co-headline tour with Rod Stewart this month. “There were no egos in the studio making this music. It just came together and we are really grateful.”

For “Corazon,” Santana and his management partnered with Sony’s Latin Music division, Home Box Office and the Mexican Board of Tourism, the latter of which was eager to have a high-profile event to counteract dwindling tourism due to drug-related violence. A documentary about the making of the album was filmed throughout Mexico, with the concert staged at an arena less than 150 miles from Santana’s birthplace.

“This is further recognition that Carlos’ music is not just Latin, but universal,” says Fernando Cabral, VP Marketing, Sony Latin America.

With record sales of over 100,000 million, Santana is arguably the most popular Latin music star of all time, but, until now, his success has been attributed to the mainstream pop world.

“This is something he has never done over the last 45 years of his career,” says Santana manager Michael Vrionis. “We really feel this project is going to be the ‘Supernatural,’ that we did in 2000, Latin-style.” That album sold more than 15 million copies, winning nine Grammys and three Latin Grammys.

As proof, the first single “La Flaca” (featuring vocals by Juanes) hit No. 1 in Colombia upon its release and has been in the Top 10 of all the other Latin countries. A second single, “Saideira,” with Rosa from the popular Brazilian band Skank, went to No. 1 in Rio de Janeiro in its first 24 hours and has joined “La Flaca” in the top 10 of other Latin markets.

For Santana, the album, tour and television special are his way to improve race relations between Hispanics and the rest of world.

“Now, more than ever, we are starting to see Latin men and woman in movies that are not like ‘Scarface’ anymore,” he says. “We are breaking the stereotypes in the United States for Latinos. And this is the perfect time to bring a voice to the abyss.”

“They tried to change us a lot in the beginning,” Estefan says about the music industry’s bias against Latin performers. “They told us to lose the percussion; lose the horns; you might have to change your name. And we would say, ‘Listen, this is who we are. If we cannot succeed with this, why would we bother even doing music?’ ”

Also tied into the new record is Santana’s alliance with Tequila brand Casa Noble, with which he became an active partner-owner in 2011.

All the proceeds Santana makes from the spirit is used to help fund his La Milagro (Miracle) Foundation, providing educational and health resources for under privileged children.

After completing a world tour for “Corazon,” Santana will record and tour with original band members Gregg Rollie and drummer Michael Shrieve, as well as Journey guitarist Neal Schon.

“We’re planning on doing ‘Santana IV,’ ” says Santana, “because the original Santana stopped after ‘Santana III.’ ”

Santana is determined to remain fresh, vital and, most of all, relevant.

“Many of those musicians who played Woodstock, they’re here, but they’re not here,” he says of his peers from that iconic festival whose careers have mostly been relegated to nostalgia. “I’m ready to do the next one on a whole different level.”

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