With almost forty years in the music business and near that many records that bear his name, few American artists have contributed to the blues lexicon at the level of the man called Taj Mahal.
He is both spelunker and astronaut in the musical world, and there is little he has not done or tried. Movies, children's music, Grammy winning records, character voiceovers, and a legacy of recordings that encompass and combine a staggering variety of cultures in ingenious ways. His global vision and grasp of history have spawned projects that combine the blues with (or trace either its roots or influence in) Caribbean music, Indian music, African music, Hawaiian music, soul music, pop music, and more. (Can electronic music or conducting some intergalactic blues orchestra be far behind?) He has plenty of life and living left in him, and will no doubt continue to go places that defy the pigeonholing mentality of the music business and its highly trained consumers.
He's had more labels than most artists have made records, over a dozen. His relentless musical peregrinations have sometimes been a source of fluctuating popularity, but his artistic berth has steadily deepened and widened over the decades, and provide a fascinating foundation for the accolades that continue to pile up. Even now his star seems to be again on the rise. We're looking forward to reading his autobiography (Taj Mahal: Autobiography of a Bluesman, with Stephen Foehr, Sanctuary 2002) because there is too little available about him on the Internet, and way too much to cover in a telephone conversation...
But the conversation we were privileged to have indeed revealed a magnetic and magnanimous person with great vitality for his mission. He was extremely extemporaneous, like few artists we've encountered. He's very fast on his feet and knows his mind on any subject you put in front of him. Until you pose another topic or question, he's liable to continue his exploration of the last. He's a very gracious man, deeply earthy on the one hand and obviously extremely refined on the other. He was not at all imposing, but he was very inspiring.
We enjoy the hell out of the new record, Hanapepe Dream, made with the band of merry men known as The Hula Blues. The reggae version of "Black Jack Davy" blows my mind every time it comes on, as does his ukulele stroke on Mississippi John Hurt's "My Creole Belle," the man is a wonder. He's offering much more than mere groove and melody here, but sister music is his joyful and powerful vehicle.
grateful for the opportunity to speak with Taj Mahal, and we know you'll
enjoy the conversation with this very compelling artist.