We had the good fortune of connecting with John Santos and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi John, what’s the most important think you’ve done for your children?
To expose them to creativity and the arts, thereby giving them tools to think communally, lovingly, outside the box and critically.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a percussionist my entire life (I’m 65). From beating on pots and pans to playing in my grandfather’s band at the age of 12, to leading my own bands, performing and recording with countless giants of Afro-Latin music and Jazz, and seven Grammy nominations. I am energized as an eternal student of the music and of life and inspired by the courageous artists who understood and understand that the music is much deepr than record and ticket sales. I started my own record label, Machete Records, in 1984 to release my own projects and document extraordinary intergenerational collaborations that celebrate traditional as well as contemporary music and champion justice and love. I am still producing music on my label. It certainly has not been an easy road, but extremely satisfying to know that the music and moments we’ve documented stand the test of time and have never for a moment been influenced by commercial interests – the music and art are always at the forefront. Standing for the art as the unifier, truth teller and healer that it is has empowered us to give our hearts and not sell out to industry “demands.” Our latest CD, Art of the Descarga by The John Santos Sextet, was released by Smithsonian/Folkways in August of 2020. That is something that means a great deal to me. I’ve learned that it is not only possible for a business to reject predator, out-of-control capitalism, but it is absolutley necessary in achieving equity, justice, unity and environmental awareness..
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would take them to Puerto Rico and Cuba – two places that have been unjustly despised and disrespected by our government. The food, music and people would immediately capture the heart of any visitor who has one. In Puerto Rico, San Juan, Luquillo, Vieques, Ponce and Peñuelas would amaze the visitor while in Cuba, Santiago, Guantánamo, Trinidad, Matanzas, Havana and Pinar Del Rio will alter their lives.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My mom, bless her 91 year old heart, has always been my #1 teacher and supporter.