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Sumit Bhattacharya finds out how Carlos Santana jammed onstage with Shillong-based blues band Soulmate in Delhi.
Shillong-based blues band Soulmate -- definitely one of India's best bands -- notched up a rare honour: Carlos Santana walked onstage when they were opening for him in Delhi.
Not only did the 65-year-old guitar god -- who made fans go weak in the knees and turned sceptics into converts with mindblowing concerts in Bangalore and Delhi -- play a song with Soulmate, he also invited Tipriti 'Tips' Kharbangar, Soulmate's powerful singer, to sing two songs with him, including the chart-busting Smooth.
"We were in the middle of a song called Lie, which is a slow blues song," explains Rudy Wallang, one of India's best guitar players who is the driving force of Soulmate. "I glanced to my right and saw him (Santana) in his 'guitar/amp room' by the side of the stage, with his guitar tech, and he had a guitar strapped on."
Wallang thought Santana "was tuning up or something. Then he gesticulated to me, as if to say 'can I join you?' I was stunned for a second or two then I waved him in! Carlos walked in. Tips was still engrossed in the song, eyes closed and singing. I went: 'TIPS! TIPS! CARLOS IS HERE!' with tears in my eyes!"
Kharbangar could not hear her partner in song.
"Then she must have heard notes coming from a guitar other than mine," Wallang continues. "She kinda glanced sideways and suddenly saw him! She stopped singing and started crying! What a moment in time it was! Will never ever forget it ever!
"I guess it was not until Carlos got in the middle of the stage did the people in the audience realise that it was actually Carlos Santana who walked in with his guitar. Everyone was stunned!"
After Soulmate finished their set high on the success, Carlos Santana's personal assistant came to the Soulmate green room, congratulated them on the gig and asked them if they wanted to meet The Man.
"We all just jumped right out of our seats and followed him downstairs," Wallang says. "Carlos was waiting for us. What a surreal moment! To see the guitar player I had listened to from the time I was a kid, standing in front of us, smiling and telling us that we played a great set and that he listened to the same music that we did!"
Wallang continues: "He greeted Tips first. Then he shook my hand hard and said, 'Man, I love your tone'!"
Santana then asked Kharbangar to do a song with him and showed her his set list.
"Tips had already decided that if this situation came up, she would sing Smooth, a song she already knew," Wallang explains. "It was on the list. Then, he told her, 'Why don't you sing another song with us?' He got one of the guys to print out the lyrics of The Game Of Love and give them to Tips. He also got them to loan her one of their laptops so that she could go through the song in the green room!"
"What really struck me," Wallang adds, "was his humility -- like we'd known him a long time and he was our friend. And his band members and crew -- what great human beings they all are, full of respect for us fellow musicians! We also got to meet his wife, the great (drummer) Cindy Blackman Santana. What a great musician she is as well! We have been blessed immensely!"