Courtesy of Salvador Santana
Salvador Santana, left, and his father Carlos Santana, right, arrive at the 52nd Annual GRAMMY Awards held at Staples Center in 2010 in Los Angeles, California. Salvador grew up around music, but has carved his own artistic style.Getty
Salvador Santana performs at "FOGG Fest 2006" of the Golden Gate at Fort Mason Great Meadow in 2006 in San Francisco, California. Growing up, Salvador played drums and the guitar, but found his love to be the piano.Getty
The magic of music already was coursing through him when he was barely tall enough to reach a doorknob.
Sitting on the lap of his legendary father, Carlos Santana, at the age of three, Salvador Santana got his first taste of making his own music on a set of drums.
“Both my folks, once I started getting into drums, they would take me to restaurants when I was little [and] I would grab the utensils and all the plates and start mimicking that I was playing the drums,” Salvador, who is 28, said.
Salvador also participated in church choir, although he said despite singing at a young age, his main focus was always instrumental music.
Then his father, being the legendary guitarist, introduced him to – naturally – the guitar.
“My father presented a guitar to me, I tried it for a little bit, I totally appreciate the instrument for what it was, but at the time I just didn’t resonate with it,” Salvador said.
The piano, however, was a different story.
“Somewhere around six or seven years old, once the piano was introduced to me, and I started taking consistent music lessons, it just spoke to me, it made sense to me,” he said.
And since then, Salvador has been carving his own musical path. And the son of the famous guitarist and, also, acclaimed poet and writer Deborah Santana, has become a respected artist in his own right. He wrapped up the August portion of a California tour that will conclude on October 20th in San Diego.
Salvador's tour, which has included performances at both venues and outdoor festivals, has featured a variety of songs from his previously released solo album Keyboard City, as well as his new single, “Into The Light.”
“Into The Light” which is the second single from Salvador’s upcoming EP, was recently added to Clear Channel’s “New Artist To Watch” program, which provides access to his song and video on all the Clear Channel websites via the iHeartRadio platform. “Into The Light” is currently in the top ten airplay for Clear Channel.
He wanted me to have a real basic and firm fundamental understanding of rhythm and tempo as a live musician. It’s so vital to have that as a tool.
- Salvador Santana, musician, on how his father, Carlos Santana, influenced his art
Salvador performs with a band, featuring Alex Nester on vocals and keyboards, Jared Meeker on guitar, Blake Collie on drums and Itai Shapira on bass.
“Once I started listening to more hip-hop, more rap music, especially Tupac, that got me into how you can actually recite lyrics,” he said.
His music has been described as a soulful fusion of hip-hop, jazz, rock and Latin. Some might also call him a rapper, but Salvador eschews labels.
“I play the piano and I can recite poetry in rhythm to the music, all at the same time,” Salvador said. “If it’s not new, it’s something very uncommon.”
When asked why he does not use the term rapping, he explained, “I don’t really view it as rapping, or gangster rap, I view it as spoken words.”
“It’s a cool combination,” he said of the piano and spoken word, “it also demonstrates to people I’m not just a one-trick pony.”
Salvador unabashedly marvels over his musical journey, the fusion of styles and rhythms that inform his art.
“My whole world flipped upside down, I had no idea you could do this,” he said, “despite what anyone else maybe told me in the past, I just kept pursuing it.”
He describes his band as a “beautiful balance between making music and also taking a break from music and learning from others outside of it.”
"Everytime we play we get tighter and tighter,” he said. “We’re all professional, we all know when to get to work, put our work gear on, and we also know when to keep it light and enjoy each other and enjoy the moment that we have.”
Salvador debuted his first solo piece, “Keyboard City,” in 2008. Collaborations and consultations, a passion of his that involves learning from others while they hopefully learn from him, helped shape this track.
“When I’m not so heavily involved in my music,” Salvador said, “I like to focus my attention on collaborating with various artists. Living in L.A. and southern California area, there is definitely no shortage of up and coming and established artists.”
Bay Area producer/MC, and founder of the group Hieroglyphics, Del the Funky Homosapien helped shape his writing skills. Salvador received additional guidance and support from Wu Tang Clan’s founder the GZA and Beastie Boy studio wizard Money Mark.
Money Mark seemed to have had an especially strong influence -- Salvador goes out of his way to emphasize how much he has learned from their work together.
Naturally, another major influence in his musical career was the way he was raised by his father.
“He wanted me to have a real basic and firm fundamental understanding of rhythm and tempo as a live musician,” said Salvador, “it’s so vital to have that as a tool.”
In 2007, Salvador did a version of his father’s hit “Evil Ways,” which turned out to be the opening track on the disc “A Song for My Father,” a compilation of acclaimed young music artists who recreated classic tunes made famous by their legendary fathers.
In a press release on the compilation, Salvador said he had opted not to alter his father’s hit too much.
“Rather than totally reinvent the song, I wanted to honor the classic aspect of what my dad did, but update it to 2007,” he said in the release. “We worked with that  vibe, and did it to sound like what people listen to today, a little bit of Black Eyed Pease, Gnarls Barkley, those sounds are mixed in.”
Currently, Salvador is not focusing on releasing a specific album. He has been taking it one song at a time.
“As of recently, I’ve been coming out with singles. Just keeping my ears on the street, and on the Internet, [on] what’s popular.”
Salvador is excited about teaming up with his father for collaborations and working with the winner of the Pave the Way Project contest, Dymond Harding, and record a song together.
He also hopes to stay active in the field of philanthropy. An upcoming project he’s been excited about is visiting a highly exclusive all-girls school in Kenya.
He refers to the girls who have managed to get into the school as “amazing, the leaders of the next generation”, and looks forward to “one day getting out there and experiencing it for myself.”
Salvador praises his influencers for helping him get to where he is now.
“Each experience I’ve gone through in my life has molded me into the person I’ve become today,” Salvador said. “All the people coming in and out of my life, I can use them as tools to better myself and still have room to grow and improve and learn."
"I’m a firm believer that I don’t think I chose to pursue music, music chose me."
E.J. Aguado is a freelance journalist based in New Jersey.
Follow him on Twitter: @aguado91