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Carlos Santana And His Guitar Heaven

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By Aashu Anshuman:

You rarely come across classic rock covers which manage to bag a second listen. Even rarer is an album which is a compilation of covers of some of the best rock songs of the yesteryears. And one of the greatest guitarists of all time coming out with such a compilation is something every rock lover dreams of.

But Carlos Santana has given us just that — a record which comprises of some exceptional covers of some of the most celebrated rock songs ever. Guitar Heaven is a departure from Santana’s other recent albums which consisted of original songs. Personally, I am glad he decided to try his hand at covers. All of them have Santana on the guitar while, like on the other Santana albums in the last decade or so, the vocals are provided by various artists.

The album starts off with an excellent rendition of Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love. It has a stronger and more metallic feel to it than the original. While it has a lot in similar with the original, the fabulous leads by Santana are un-mistakeable. This is something which you get to see throughout the album. Santana has stuck to the original tune most of the time but has left an imprint which any Santana fan can identify in the first listen. The vocals on the first track have been provided by Chris Cornell and he has done a fine job. High notes have never been a problem for him and he has, quite expectedly, did more than merely manage to pull off a Robert Plant in this track. The next song “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” has some excellent shredding from Santana. The vocalist is fine too but this one of those songs where the Santana phenomenon just takes over everything else.

The next two tracks are my favourite on the album and each one for a different reason. The first of these is “Sunshine of Your Love” (Cream). Rob Thomas is as good as he was on “Smooth”. But again, Santana simply takes over the song. He has given a very foot-tapping feel and a lot of energy to the song, although the notes are pretty much the same. The result is a track you would probably want to put on repeat and keep listening to over and over again. That is unless someone told you that the next song is probably the best cover ever of The Beatles’ classic “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. A pretty much unknown (at least I had never heard of her before) India.Arie gave me a cover I unashamedly admit, I like even better than the original Beatles’ version. Kill me for that but at least give the song a listen before you pull out your daggers. It is one o those songs you would like regardless of whether you are a Beatles fan or not (and trust me the soul of the original is still completely intact in this track). Santana is smooth as usual, but on this occasion the vocals are overwhelmingly haunting.

The next song is a surprise, not because of its quality but because a Def Leppard song is quite out of place in this album. Though I must mention that Daughtry does a very nearly perfect imitation of Joe Elliott on this song.

AC/DC is one of my favourite bands and the next track, being “Back In Black”, was the one I was awaiting the most. The only time I have been more disappointed in someone else was after seeing India’s performance in Cricket World Cup final of 2003. It was difficult to tell what made Santana choose Nas for the vocals even before I had heard the song. Now that I have heard the song, Santana himself cannot convince me that there could have been a worse choice than he-whose-name-rhymes-with-gas for the vocals. And it doesn’t stop there. What was Santana thinking when he chose to do this to an AC/DC classic? But then the old man has given us some excellent songs, so I should probably not be so hard on him. Right? Wait till you here the next track. Although the rendition of “Riders of the Storm” is not as bad, it must have been enough to make poor Jim Morrison turn around in his grave.

I was pretty much intent on giving up but decided to listen to just one more track. It was “Smoke on the Water” after all. There was a lot of guitar and thank God for that, as the vocals were ordinary at best. But it was good enough to hold me for yet another song, Van Halen’s “Dance the Night Away”. It didn’t take me more than a minute to know that I loved it. Good vocals. Pretty much plain aping, but really good. The song has a very fun-filled vibe to it. The next song “Bang A Gong” was just as good. “Little Wing” was well done with some excellent work from Joe Cocker. The rest of the album moved on pretty much the same level thereon. “I Ain’t Superstitious” was one song I hadn’t hear before. So I can’t really compare it to the original. I liked the individual effort though.

The album winds up with the cover of one of my most favourite Red Hot Chili Peppers (another favourite) songs, “Under the Bridge”. I got to hear a lot of clearly new sounds in this rendition of the song. And I liked what I heard. The song started out quite different. In fact, this song was among the ones which saw the most change from the original. The Santana I got to see in the song was more like the one I had seen his previous album. I also liked Andy Vargas’ vocals and that he tried to bring something new to the song and succeeded to a fairly large extent. This track was my second favourite on the album after “While My Guitar…”.

This album marks the occurrence of something extraordinary. Santana covers his contemporaries who, in most cases, are no less legendary in stature than him – Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Angus Young, Van Halen and Eric Clapton among others. While he succeeded in many of his attempts and was smooth as usual in all his songs, I often missed his signature Latin sound. The vocals should have been a lot better on many of the songs as they either could not keep up with the guitar (I know it is Santana they are playing with, but still). The album definitely deserves one listen. And while some songs are exceptional (“While My…”, “Sunshine…”, “Whole Lotta Love” and “Under the Bridge”), I would fully support AC/DC if they ever decided to sue Nas or even Santana for what was done to “Back In Black”. All in all, a good album with some pretty good guitaring throughout and mostly average vocals. A must buy for a Classic Rock fan though.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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