TAJ MAHAL


BIO: Composer, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Taj Mahal is one of the most prominent and influential figures in late 20th century blues and roots music. Though his career began more than four decades ago with American blues, he has broadened his artistic scope over the years to include music representing virtually every corner of the world – west Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, the Hawaiian islands and so much more. What ties it all together is his insatiable interest in musical discovery. Over the years, his passion and curiosity have led him around the world, and the resulting global perspective is reflected in his music. Born Henry St. Claire Fredericks in Harlem on May 17, 1942, Taj grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts. His father was a jazz pianist, composer and arranger of Caribbean descent, and his mother was a gospel singing schoolteacher from South Carolina. Both parents encouraged their children to take pride in their diverse ethnic and cultural roots. His father had an extensive record collection and a shortwave radio that brought sounds from near and far into the home. His parents also started him on classical piano lessons, but after only two weeks, young Henry already had other plans about what and how he wanted to play. In addition to piano, the young musician learned to play the clarinet, trombone and harmonica, and he loved to sing. He discovered his stepfather's guitar and became serious about it in his early teens when a guitarist from North Carolina moved in next door and taught him the various styles of Muddy Waters, Lightnin' Hopkins, John Lee Hooker and Jimmy Reed and other titans of Delta and Chicago blues. Springfield in the 1950s was full of recent arrivals, not just from around the U.S. but from all over the globe. "We spoke several dialects in my house – Southern, Caribbean, African – and we heard dialects from eastern and western Europe," Taj recalls. In addition, musicians from the Caribbean, Africa and all over the U.S. frequently visited the Fredericks home, and Taj became even more fascinated with roots – the origins of all the different forms of music he was hearing, what path they took to reach their current form, and how they influenced each other along the way. He threw himself into the study of older forms of African-American music – a music that the record companies of the day largely ignored. Henry studied agriculture at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in the early 1960s. Inspired by a dream, he adopted the musical alias of Taj Mahal and formed the popular U. Mass party band, the Elektras. After graduating, he headed west in 1964 to Los Angeles, where he formed the Rising Sons, a six-piece outfit that included guitarist Ry Cooder. The band opened for numerous high-profile touring artists of the '60s, including Otis Redding, the Temptations and Martha and the Vandellas. Around this same time, Taj also mingled with various blues legends, including Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, Lightnin' Hopkins and Sleepy John Estes. This diversity of musical experience served as the bedrock for Taj's first three recordings: Taj Mahal (1967), The Natch'l Blues (1968) and Giant Step (1969). Drawing on all the sounds and styles he'd absorbed as a child and a young adult, these early albums showed signs of the musical exploration that would be Taj's hallmark over the years to come. In the 1970s, Taj carved out a unique musical niche with a string of adventurous recordings, including Happy To be Just Like I Am (1971), Recycling the Blues and Other Related Stuff (1972), the GRAMMY®-nominated soundtrack to the movie Sounder (1973), Mo' Roots (1974), Music Fuh Ya (Music Para Tu) (1977) and Evolution (The Most Recent) (1978). Taj's recorded output slowed somewhat during the 1980s as he toured relentlessly and immersed himself in the music and culture of his new home in Hawaii. Still, that decade saw the well-received release of Taj in 1987, as well as the first three of his celebrated children's albums on the Music For Little People label. He returned to a full recording and touring schedule in the 1990s, including such projects as the musical scores for the Langston Hughes/Zora Neale Hurston play Mule Bone (1991) and the movie Zebrahead (1992). Later in the decade, Dancing the Blues (1993), Phantom Blues (1996), An Evening of Acoustic Music (1996) and the GRAMMY®-winning Señor Blues (1997) were all commercial and critical successes. At the same time, Taj continued to explore world music, beginning with the aptly titled World Music in 1993. He joined Indian classical musicians on Mumtaz Mahal in 1995, and recorded Sacred Island, a blend of Hawaiian music and blues, with the Hula Blues in 1998. Kulanjan, released in 1999, was a collaborative project with Malian kora player Toumani Diabate (the kora is a 21-string west African harp). In 2000, Taj released a second GRAMMY®-winning album, Shoutin' in Key, and recorded a second album with the Hula Blues, Hanapepe Dream, in 2003. Taj joins the Heads Up International label in the fall of 2008 with the worldwide release of Maestro: Celebrating 40 Years. As the title suggests, this twelve-track set marks the fortieth anniversary of Taj's rich and varied recording career by mixing original material, chestnuts borrowed from classic sources, and songs written by a cadre of highly talented guest artists. This anniversary gala includes performances by Ben Harper, Jack Johnson, Ziggy Marley, Angelique Kidjo, Los Lobos and others – many of whom have been directly influenced by Taj's music and guidance. "The one thing I've always demanded of the records I've made is that they be danceable," he says. "This record is danceable, it's listenable, it has lots of different rhythms, it's accessible, it's all right in front of you. It's a lot of fun, and it represents where I am at this particular moment in my life. This record is just the beginning of another chapter, one that's going to be open to more music and more ideas. Even at the end of forty years, in many ways my music is just getting started."

Latest Articles


Steve Miller Announces 'Americana' Summer Tour with Marty Stuart and Gary Mule Deer Photo Steve Miller Announces 'Americana' Summer Tour with Marty Stuart and Gary Mule Deer
by TV News Desk - February 13, 2020

The AMERICANA TOUR is a 40-city summer tour that will start in Austin, TX, on June 13th, immediately after Miller is inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame in New York on June 11th....
The BB King Blues Band & The BB King Estate Have Joined Forces Photo The BB King Blues Band & The BB King Estate Have Joined Forces
by TV News Desk - February 11, 2020

The B.B. King Blues Band are thrilled to announce their new partnership with The B.B. King Estate. This joint venture now finds the two forces working together to bring the world The B.B. King Experience, the band's new working name. In addition to the upcoming world tour (dates listed below), the s...
GRAMMY Hall Of Fame Welcomes Recordings By Neil Diamond, Elton John, Joni Mitchell, T Photo GRAMMY Hall Of Fame Welcomes Recordings By Neil Diamond, Elton John, Joni Mitchell, The Police, & More As 2020 Inductions
by TV News Desk - January 14, 2020

The Recording Academy® welcomes the newest inductions to its distinguished GRAMMY Hall Of Fame®, continuing its ongoing commitment to preserving and celebrating timeless recordings. This year's additions recognize a diverse range of both single and album recordings at least 25 years old that exhibit...
Trent Wagler, Darrell Scott, and David Holt as Judges for 28th Annual Chris Austin So Photo Trent Wagler, Darrell Scott, and David Holt as Judges for 28th Annual Chris Austin Songwriting Contest
by TV News Desk - January 08, 2020

MerleFest, presented by Window World®, is pleased to announce Trent Wagler (of The Steel Wheels), Darrell Scott, and David Holt as judges for the 28th Annual Chris Austin Songwriting Contest (CASC). ...
Frank Black and Iggy Pop Celebrate Mose Allison, Out Nov. 29 Photo Frank Black and Iggy Pop Celebrate Mose Allison, Out Nov. 29
by TV News Desk - November 11, 2019

Today, on Mose Allison's birthday, Fat Possum Records releases two newly-recorded Allison tracks from IF YOU'RE GOING TO  THE CITY:  A Tribute To Mose Allison, out November 29. Pixies vocalist Frank Black has recorded 'Numbers on Paper,' while punk icon Iggy Pop puts his spin on the title track. IF ...
Joe Bonamassa Releases New Album LIVE AT THE SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE Photo Joe Bonamassa Releases New Album LIVE AT THE SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE
by TV News Desk - October 25, 2019

Today, Joe Bonamassa, who Guitar World cites as 'arguably the world's biggest blues guitarist,' is back with his latest album LIVE AT THE SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE on J&R Adventures. Currently on tour in the US and planning his next studio album, the artist who never stops brings fans and critics a new col...
Blues Diva Dana Fuchs Rocks The House At SOPAC November 7 Photo Blues Diva Dana Fuchs Rocks The House At SOPAC November 7
by BWW News Desk - October 08, 2019

Soulful singer and songwriter Dana Fuchs performs at SOPAC in the sophisticated, urban-style setting of The Loft on Thursday, November 7 at 7:30 p.m. in support of her critically acclaimed album, Love Lives On. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased at SOPACnow.org/dana-fuchs-in-the-loft....
Grammy-Nominated JANIVA MAGNESS Releases 'Change in the Weather: Janiva Magness Sings Photo Grammy-Nominated JANIVA MAGNESS Releases 'Change in the Weather: Janiva Magness Sings John Fogerty' this Friday, Sept. 13
by TV News Desk - September 11, 2019

This Friday, Grammy-nominated artist, JANIVA MAGNESS, releases her new album, Change in the Weather: Janiva Magness Sings John Fogerty, and finds herself at the nexus of re-invention and tradition. The album reframes 12 songs curated from the Creedence Clearwater Revival leader's catalog in Magness'...
South African Artist Anna Wolf Wins Grand Prize in 2019 Unsigned Only Music Competiti Photo South African Artist Anna Wolf Wins Grand Prize in 2019 Unsigned Only Music Competition
by TV News Desk - September 05, 2019

The Unsigned Only Music Competition is pleased to announce its 2019 winners. Unsigned Only is open to artists who are unsigned to a major record label, and over the years has become an important source for discovering new talent. Since Unsigned Only's inception in 2012, five Grand Prize winners have...
Blues-Rock Master Coco Montoya Celebrates New Release With a Performance in Salt Lake Photo Blues-Rock Master Coco Montoya Celebrates New Release With a Performance in Salt Lake City!
by TV News Desk - August 30, 2019

Coming In Hot features 11 songs by writers including Montoya and Dave Steen, Tom Hambridge and Richard Fleming, Warren Haynes, Frankie Miller, Jeff Paris, and Albert Collins. The tracks range from blistering, hard-rocking blues to potent shuffles to fervent, moving ballads. Montoya delivers each son...
Joe Bonamassa Announces New LIVE AT THE SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE Album Photo Joe Bonamassa Announces New LIVE AT THE SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE Album
by TV News Desk - August 28, 2019

Fans and critics alike have been asking the big question of two-time GRAMMY-nominated blues rock titan Joe Bonamassa - 'Will there be a new album in 2019?'...
Geronimo Black FREAK OUT PHANTASIA Features Previously Unreleased Live and Studio Ses Photo Geronimo Black FREAK OUT PHANTASIA Features Previously Unreleased Live and Studio Sessions Now Available on Vinyl/CD
by BWW News Desk - July 01, 2019

These previously unreleased live and studio sessions are a loose exercise in spontaneity, and sheer art, which has been lost in the mists of time. Geronimo Black, a truly underrated band from Los Angeles, had existed long before its self-titled debut album released officially by UNI Records in Febru...
Willie Nelson Adds Saratoga Springs Date To Outlaw Music Festival 2019 Photo Willie Nelson Adds Saratoga Springs Date To Outlaw Music Festival 2019
by BWW News Desk - June 25, 2019

Willie Nelson, Blackbird Presents, Keith Wortman, and Mark Rothbaum are thrilled to announce, the addition of Saratoga Springs on September 7, 2019 to the 'Outlaw Music Festival Tour 2019'. The line-up includes Willie Nelson & Family, Bonnie Raitt, Alison Krauss, Brothers Osborne with more to be ann...
Janiva Magness Reframes 12 Songs Curated from the John Fogerty Songbook Photo Janiva Magness Reframes 12 Songs Curated from the John Fogerty Songbook
by BWW News Desk - June 14, 2019

With her new Change in the Weather: Janiva Magness Sings John Fogerty, the Grammy-nominated artist is at the nexus of re-invention and tradition. The album, to be released on September 13, 2019 by Blue Elan Records, reframes 12 songs curated from the Creedence Clearwater Revivalleader's catalog in M...
Roger Sanchez Leads elrow Phase 2 Lineup at BK Mirage Photo Roger Sanchez Leads elrow Phase 2 Lineup at BK Mirage
by TV News Desk - May 23, 2019

Ibiza season is kicking off in Europe, and luckily for New Yorkers, the island's most notorious party returns to NY's most illustrious venue for a two-stage fiesta that will go strong for 10+ hours starting at 6:30 pm on July 27 at Brooklyn Mirage....
Erick Morillo Leads elrow Lineup at Brooklyn Mirage Photo Erick Morillo Leads elrow Lineup at Brooklyn Mirage
by TV News Desk - May 17, 2019

elrow returns to Brooklyn Mirage on July 27 to continue its New York City residency and announces its phase one lineup featuring one of the biggest names in house music, platinum-selling artist Erick Morillo for Rowllywood, a Bollywood-themed extravaganza. DJing for nearly 30 years, mixing house, te...
A2IM Announces Performances For 2019 Libera Awards and Lifetime Achievement Award Rec Photo A2IM Announces Performances For 2019 Libera Awards and Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient
by BWW News Desk - May 14, 2019

A2IM is thrilled to announce the first three performers confirmed to grace the stage at the 2019 Libera Awards (presented by SoundExchange) Sunflower Bean, Jean-Michel Blais and Deva Mahala are among those who will perform at the awards. With more artists and the host to be announced shortly, this y...
Alice Howe Releases Debut EP VISIONS 5/17 Photo Alice Howe Releases Debut EP VISIONS 5/17
by BWW News Desk - May 09, 2019

Alice Howe, the rising voice of modern folk in the United States, is set to release her debut LP, Visions on May 17th. Produced by iconic fretless bassist, Freebo (Bonnie Raitt, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Loudon Wainwright III, Maria Muldaur, Dr. John), the duo will perform on May 18th at McCabe's in Sa...
Travers Brothership Comes To Brooklyn Bowl This May Photo Travers Brothership Comes To Brooklyn Bowl This May
by BWW News Desk - April 11, 2019

Asheville, NC-based Travers Brothership have announced a lengthy tour in support of their latest release, Let The World Decide. Starting April 5th, the Brothership takes flight into new, uncharted territory, storming the east coast and deep south with their homegrown brand of funky, improvisation-dr...
Former AMERICAN IDOL Finalist Elise Testone To Release Second LP Photo Former AMERICAN IDOL Finalist Elise Testone To Release Second LP
by BWW News Desk - April 09, 2019

Soulful singer/songwriter ELISE TESTONE, a former American Idol finalist and powerhouse vocalist whose incredible stage presence and bluesy maturity rank with the best, is releasing her long-awaited sophomore album, This Is Love, on April 17 and immediately mounting an East Coast Tour that includes ...
Nathaniel Rateliff With Foundation of Funk And Others Add 2nd NOLA Night Photo Nathaniel Rateliff With Foundation of Funk And Others Add 2nd NOLA Night
by BWW News Desk - March 11, 2019

Blackbird Presents is proud to announce that due to overwhelming demand Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats will now headline two nights at the sixth annual 'Second Weekend at the Saenger' Concert Series. This unforgettable concert series is now set to take place Friday, May 3 and Saturday, May 4 ...
GRANNY Premieres At Pangea And Ponders Partnership With Jontavious Willis Photo GRANNY Premieres At Pangea And Ponders Partnership With Jontavious Willis
by BWW News Desk - February 20, 2019

Granny's back in I'm SOOO High: Rev. Mary's Reefer Revue; April 6 @ 9:30 at Pangea, 172 Second Avenue, NYC AND Jontavious Willis discusses guest appearance in Granny's All-Man Band CD and Video. Some more wild and woolly word-play from back-in-the-day is being done live and 'for the record!'...
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats To Headline 'Second Weekend at the Saenger' Photo Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats To Headline 'Second Weekend at the Saenger'
by BWW News Desk - February 12, 2019

Blackbird Presents is proud to announce Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats will headline the sixth annual 'Second Weekend at the Saenger' Concert Series. This unforgettable concert is set to take place on Friday, May 3 at the Saenger Theatre in New Orleans....
Jackie Greene Premieres New Video For FRAGILE AND WANTING Photo Jackie Greene Premieres New Video For FRAGILE AND WANTING
by BWW News Desk - January 28, 2019

Jackie Greene's music video for “Fragile and Wanting”, the heartfelt and earnest ballad from his 2018 release The Modern Lives Vol. 2, wasreleased on Friday via Relix Magazine.  Directed by Anthony Simpkins of GemsOnVHS, “Fragile and Wanting” paints a picture of tender memories interspersed with som...
The Afro Latin Jazz Alliance Presents ALJO + AFROBEAT = FELA! Photo The Afro Latin Jazz Alliance Presents ALJO + AFROBEAT = FELA!
by BWW News Desk - January 23, 2019

Multi-GRAMMY Award-winning composer/pianist/educator Arturo O'Farrill and the non-profit The Afro Latin Jazz Alliance (ALJA) are thrilled to announce NYC's premier Afrobeat concert of 2019, ALJO + AFROBEAT = FELA!, featuring O'Farrill and his 18-piece Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra (ALJO) alongside Tony ...