“On “Keyboard City,” Sal and Mark layer reedy, synth atmospherics, icy-cool electronic keys and a smooth-as-butter beat underneath Sal’s awesomely zonked-out Vocoder-heavy vocals” – RollingStone.com
Music is a burst of choices. Not only what note to play when and with what instrument, but whether to play a note at all. Salvador Santana, the 26-year-old keyboardist, vocalist, composer, and songwriter with strong Bay Area roots, knows what it means to navigate the infinite options of music. His 2008 project with the Salvador Santana Band–simply called SSB–pursued the scope of his ability. But for Santana, it wasn’t enough. He has no choice but to push himself further. Collaboration has always been the centerpiece of his creations, and this passion manifested his solo debut “Keyboard City” around the inspirations of a few legends: Bay Area MC/producer Del the Funky Homosapien who helped hone in Santana’s writing skills, Beastie Boy studio wizard Money Mark, and GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan. The legendary founder of the Wu-Tang Clan rallied support around the album by featuring himself on remix of the title track “Keyboard City” earlier this fall. The long anticipated debut hits the streets in February of 2010 followed by extensive touring with his keyboard-laden band featuring a three-person keyboard assault with Santana at the head.
Money Mark inspired Santana in a beautiful way during the creation process. “With all the people I’ve ever collaborated with or just working by myself, I have never produced so many ideas into songs as I have during these Money Mark sessions. That guy is just a machine,” said Santana.
Money Mark opened up a new way of recording that was previously unknown to Santana. “He has mentored me by showing me that it’s cool to be all over the pace. It’s cool to sit there and work on a song, then out of nowhere, interrupt that flow and work on another idea. To just go with it.”, Santana elaborates.
Santana is pushed by a need to step out of his comfort zone in a quest for new ideas. Easy going and humble, Santana exudes the Bay Area vibe. He began playing the drums at age three–sitting on his father’s lap, controlling the snare and tom, as his father worked the hi-hat and kick drum–but his true love was discovered when he began taking piano lessons when he was six. Later, he studied at San Francisco’s heralded School of the Arts before attending Cal Arts in Valencia, CA. His education, passion and lineage has turned Santana into a monster on the keys, leading him to say that he’s “a musician first, a vocalist second and a performer second-and-a-half.”
Music truly thrives in his veins. His maternal grandfather was blues pioneer Saunders King and his paternal grandfather was the internationally celebrated violinist and mariachi bandleader Jose Santana. And, of course, his father is 10X Grammy-winning Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Carlos Santana…who’s also a frequent collaborator (Salvador co-wrote “El Farol” from 1999’s smash album Supernatural).
But with his upcoming solo project, Salvador Santana will truly become a brand of his own.
“With the Salvador Santana Band record I was very passive and insecure, only because I wasn’t listening to my gut, allowing my second opinions to get to me. Knowing what I know now, I could have played that part better. I don’t ever want to have that feeling ever again.”
In addition to his musical desires, Santana has worldly efforts on his mind. After a trip to South Africa and inspiring work with Artists for a New South Africa (ANSA), something triggered inside of Santana to make sure his music wasn’t only about personal glory. Once the record is released and he begins touring the project, Salvador will be posting various non-profit organizations on his website that will receive a percentage of the profits. “I want to use music in a positive way, and give back to people in need. There can never be enough people who do that.” And there can never be enough musicians pushing their art to the brink.