Taj Mahal

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About Taj Mahal

As much as a blues musician, Taj Mahal is a broad-scale researcher of American and world music styles, obsessed with exploring the interconnectivity of their musical vocabularies. Born Henry St. Claire Fredericks Jr. in 1942 in New York City, the singer and multi-instrumentalist was raised in a family with refined musical tastes. His father was a jazz arranger, his mother sang gospel, and his entry into musical life was classical piano. He discovered his love of folk blues while in his teens and moved to Los Angeles in 1964, developing his signature gutbucket style in the band Rising Sons alongside Ry Cooder. On his self-titled debut album (1968), Taj Mahal emerged fully formed, with a sound both situated in the canonical blues tradition and invested with a thoroughly modern, live-wire energy. A collection of playful, raucous, and sometimes uncharacterizable '70s LPs—see 1974’s reggae outing Mo’ Roots—resituated Mahal’s career around genre experimentation. After a hiatus in the '80s, Taj Mahal spent the '90s both embracing pop and traversing even more far-flung stylistic territory, with projects featuring Indian, Hawaiian, and West African musicians. Mahal’s 21st-century output has been more reserved, featuring collaborations with Etta Baker, Keb’ Mo’, and his old friend Ry Cooder.

Harlem, NY, United States
May 17, 1942
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