Grammy Award winning Composer, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Taj Mahal is one of the most prominent and influential figures in late 20th century blues and roots music. Born Henry Saint Clair Fredericks, Mahal has done much to reshape the definition and scope of blues music over the course of his almost 50 year career by fusing it with sounds from the Caribbean, Africa and the South Pacific. Early in his career he studied the various styles of his favorite blues singers, like Jimmy Reed, Son House, Sleepy John Estes, Big Mama Thornton, Howlin' Wolf, Mississippi John Hurt and Sonny Terry. He describes hanging out at Club 47 in Massachusetts and Ash Grove in Los Angeles as the "basic building blocks in the development of my music." Over time he incorporated more and more African roots music into his musical palette, embracing elements of reggae, calypso, jazz, zydeco, R & B, gospel, and country blues, each of which having "served as the foundation of his unique sound." According to The Rough Guide to Rock, "It has been said that Taj Mahal was one of the first major artists, if not the very first one, to pursue the possibilities of world music. Even the blues he was playing in the early 70s, 'Recycling The Blues & Other Related Stuff' ('72), 'Mo' Roots' ('74), showed an aptitude for spicing the mix with flavours that always kept him a yard or so distant from being an out-and-out blues performer." Concerning his voice, author David Evans writes that Mahal has "an extraordinary voice that ranges from gruff and gritty to smooth and sultry."
From his early days in California with Ry Cooder to playing with Howlin' Wolf, Buddy Guy, Lightnin' Hopkins, Muddy Waters and The Rolling Stones, to writing film scores for movies, Taj has been the student and the professor for roots music. There is no one quite like him. "Some people may think the blues are about wallowing in negativity and despair," he says. "But you can listen to my music from front to back, and you don't ever hear me moaning and crying about how bad you done treated me."
His current lineup with The Taj Mahal Trio is Taj on guitar, piano, and banjo, Bill Rich on bass and Kester Smith on drums. These guys have been playing together on and off for more than 30 years, and they draw on a long, shared history of Taj's music.
Taj Mahal has received two Grammy Awards (nine nominations) over his career.
1997 (Grammy Award) Best Contemporary Blues Album for "Señor Blues"
2000 (Grammy Award) Best Contemporary Blues Album for "Shoutin' in Key"
2006 (Blues Music Awards) Historical Album of the Year for "The Essential Taj Mahal"
2008 (Grammy Nomination) Best Contemporary Blues Album for "Maestro"
On Feb. 8, 2006 Taj was designated the official Blues Artist of the Commonwealth of MA
On May 22, 2011, Taj received an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from Wofford College from Spartanburg, SC