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Taj Mahal: The Shrine of Blues and Rhythms

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What adjective would better describe a blues singer? Talented, brilliant, creative… and what word would better describe Taj Mahal’s blues performance and professional career? It’s a difficult job for blues music devotees to refer only to one side of a multi talented musician; in spite of his other personal occupations, Henry Saint Clair Fredericks has dedicated his aptitude towards blues to produce excellent songs for his fans and has helped to spread the transcendence of blues.

Taj Mahal, as he named himself on stage, was born May 17, 1942, in Harlem, New York City; his family moved to Massachusetts, specifically they lived in Springfield. He comes from a high quality family of musicians: his father, of Jamaican descent, was a composer, a talented jazz pianist and a great arranger; on the other hand, his mother was from South Carolina and she was a teacher who loved to sing gospel.

Before becoming an exceptional blues representative, Taj Mahal studied animal husbandry at University of Massachusetts; while he attended school, he formed his first band, called Taj Mahal & the Elektras. The band first got a contract with Columbia Records, but they only recorded a single and an album. After some time, Mahal decided to go by himself and quit the band. He continued working with Columbia and in 1968 he released his second album called “Natch’l Blues”.

Since he has his parent’s influence, his music is an extraordinary fusion of South Pacific, gospel, bluegrass, and reggae sounds; and because of his flair and this combination of sounds and harmony, Taj Mahal has been granted the Grammy Award in two opportunities; the first one, he got it in 1997 for the album “Señor Blues” in the category of the “Best Contemporary Blues Album” and the second time, in 2000 for his production “Shoutin’ In Key”.

What is even more interesting about Taj Mahal performance and abilities is that he never took music lessons, neither was he taught to play the more than twenty instruments he actually plays. Even though Taj became famous, he never forgot his mother’s thoughts about their cultural descent; this is the main reason why he is so proud of where he comes from and he portrays this home schooling in his songs and arrangements.

His latest production, called “Hanapepe Dream”, was released in 2003 and has proved to be a great success, exactly what his fans were waiting for. Of course Taj Mahal’s projection to the musical environment has helped to give independent musicians an opportunity to share their talent with him and with the world; Taj in fact owns his independent label, which name is Kandu Records.

Just an advice: listen to his albums and share his production with your friends!

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