Ahead of his Dubai Jazz Fest performance tonight, the ten-time Grammy legend Santana, talks to What’s On about what to expect from the show, and why Lady Gaga is the next artist he wants to collaborate with.

How are you feeling about coming to Dubai? I’m very, very excited to come over, and share some new music with you this month. My wife Cindy is in the band now, she’s playing drums with me. And we have a new singer. There’s a whole new energy, the band is more vibrant. I honour all the bands that I’ve played with in the past, but this one – WOW! It’s really kicking.

It’s not your first time in Dubai (Santana was here for the Jazz Festival in 2014). What do you enjoy about the city? I just love the explosive energy, and that sense of positive creativity. Without getting too cosmic or ‘far out’ there’s a reason people are drawn to such cities, doing what they do, being who they be. Dubai is actually probably the most futuristic city; the symmetry of the buildings, the concept of all those cultures co-existing. It feels like an oasis, really.

What can we look forward to about your visit? We always come to Dubai to promote peace, harmony, unity and love, of course, through the music. We never visit any place to plant a flag, or promote a country. We promote only the light that people have in their hearts. Like Bob Marley, we’re more about going beyond patriotism. We are one family on this planet, and we play music to celebrate, and it’s for everyone: grandparents, parents, teenagers, little children.


Even though we’re all individuals, we all have the same needs; we need a hug, we need to be looked in the eyes and be told that we’re wonderful, and we need to be fed a sense of self worth in a profound way.

You’ve been making music for decades now. What keeps you inspired after all these years?Thank you for asking. It’s important to everyday revisit and remember your innocence. Innocence in a person is extremely creative. I remember when I was in my twenties and I first heard that nothing was new under the sun. For me, that’s a very negative way to look at things. For me, everything is new, all the time; it’s an eternal spring. It’s all about imagination – making your imagination tangible.

You came from such humble beginnings; how did you keep the faith when you were a struggling musician. My mom was very strong – she’s kind of tattooed in my brain now, part of my psyche. She taught me that you are what you are, and you have what you have, so everyday you must be grateful and thankful.

You’ve had so many big hits. What can we expect from your show – will it be your classic hits, or the more contemporary collaborations that you’re so well known for? All of the above, really. We try to bring melodies that make you remember your own self importance, and grooves that help you accept your incredibleness. I think there are very few bands that bring such a portfolio of melodies. That’s what I love.

You’re going to dance, you’re going to cry, you’re going to laugh, you’re going to feel like a snake shifting its old skin. It’s going to make you go home, and clean the closets of all the stuff you don’t need.

You’re very well known for all the collaborations that you’ve done with different artists of different genres. Are there any out there that you haven’t worked with yet that you’d like to collaborate with? I’d like to do something with Lady Gaga, Andrea Bocelli, Sting, Prince. But also, artists from everywhere from Istanbul to Kuala Lumpur – the unknown artists who are currently practising in a garage somewhere, and getting their music together.

February 26

Dubai Media City Ampitheatre. Tickets are on sale now and cost from Dhs395 for regular standing to Dhs795 for golden circle, Dhs995 for fan pit and Dhs1,450 for VIP. For more information, visit www.dubaijazzfest.com.