Taj Mahal - Honoring Black History
Taj Mahal (1942-present) created his own brand of the blues, infusing world music into his many works as a multi-instrumentalist and composer. Born Henry St. Clair Fredericks Jr. in Harlem, New York, Taj was immersed in music from day one. His father, Henry St. Clair Fredericks Sr., was an Afro-Cuban pianist and jazz composer and his mother was a member of their local gospel choir.
From childhood, Mahal was interested in Jazz and the music of his Caribbean and African ancestors. His parents encouraged him to begin music lessons, starting him on the piano, harmonica, trombone, and clarinet. After his father’s tragic accidental death, he picked up the guitar from his stepfather and began taking lessons at 13 from a local neighborhood boy his age.
Through adolescence and young adulthood, Mahal’s interests pivoted toward farming, agriculture, and animal husbandry, which he later majored in at the University of Massachusetts. Around the same time, he fatefully chose his stage name of “Taj Mahal” which he gathered from dreams of Gandhi and India. A move to California in 1964 earned Taj more exposure to the blues rock scene, providing the opportunity for this first band, Rising Sons, to form. They quickly dissolved and Mahal went on to record solo throughout the 70s, an era when he began to mix West Indian, Caribbean, Latin, and reggae music with his signature bluesy grit. It was this sound, coupled with his signature style of fingerpicking leading with the thumb and middle finger, that set him apart and made him the legend that he is today. Taj Mahal continues to release music and delight his fans in concert across the globe.