Carlos Santana revealed that close friends had accused him of committing “career suicide” on a number of occasions, as a result of the way his musical output has changed style and form over the years.

He argued that, while it sometimes led to difficulties with securing mainstream attention, it was a valuable approach to making music that remained important to him. Santana released a new album entitled Africa Speaks on June 7.

Referring to 1973 LP Lotus, Santana told Stereogum: “Yeah, ’73 was part of that… what some friends of mine call ‘career suicide.’ I’ve been accused of committing career suicide six or seven times, but for me it’s about learning. I want to stay that seven-year-old child that’s thirsty for adventure, and sometimes it’s gonna go to radio and sometimes it’s not. But the main thing is to be true to what your heart wants to do.”

He said he took a similar view of his own singing voice, which he only used on occasions. “I think once in a while, I like the sound of my voice because it has, like, an innocence, because you don’t know — that’s what innocence is, not knowing and being vulnerable,” he reflected. “But many times I trust other singers to interpret what I’m trying to say better.”

Santana argued that it remained important to be adventurous, even on stage. “I learned this from the hippies — you cannot find yourself until you lose yourself, and sometimes it’s okay not to know anything, or everything,” he said. “But I do trust the musicians in the band; they know how to look at me to say, ‘Play a melody.’ When you play a melody, you bring it all back to ground zero, the heart center… you can get really far out and play a bunch of notes and this and that, but unless you play a melody, it’s just gibberish after a while.”

He maintained: “It’s imperative to leave a space in the set where you go into the unknown, where nobody knows where I’m gonna go, including myself. We go that way and it could be something that Miles [Davis] would do, or Weather Report would do, or nobody would do. Again, it’s a blessing to have the courage and the willingness to let the spirit play itself through you.”

Santana – 'Breaking Down the Door' from new album 'Africa Speaks'