Taj Mahal LIVES the Blues

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Taj Mahal at Santa Cruz Blues Festival (1) Internationally recognized blues musician Taj Mahal (stage name for Henry Saint Clair Fredericks) played at the Santa Cruz Blues Festival this weekend. His stage name apparently came to him in a dream about Gandhi and India.Winner of two Grammy Awards, Taj played up a storm with guitar, banjo and keyboard and while he didn’t play the harmonica yesterday, it is yet another instrument in his bag of tricks.

Taj Mahal at Santa Cruz Blues Festival (18)

Every Blues festival needs performers like Taj Mahal, who sounds as though he’s played the music every day for as long as he has lived. He had a set-long conversation with his guitar, mostly about women and lovin’, and he welcomed us to listen in.

With passion and humor, he fuses sounds from Africa, the South Pacific, the Caribbean and traditional American blues to get his audience moving. He asks the girls to scream and the guys to hollar. He then asks all of us to shout and adds a bit of relationship advice for all the men in the audience – “men, do yourself a favor, learn how to dance and you won’t have any more problems.”

Below, Taj’s bass player Bill Rich

Taj Mahals bass player at Santa Cruz blues festival (3)

What I loved most about his candid style was not just the fact that his music was all blues, but his raw authenticity, his quiet energy and his ability to make you smile with every note he hit on his guitar…..simultaneously he adds witty words of wisdom into the mix.

He has played with Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy, Ry Cooder and Lightnin’ Hopkins as well as in the legendary Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus. Critics describe his voice as “gruff, gritty, smooth and sultry” all at the same time.

Taj Mahal at Santa Cruz Blues Festival (1)

Taj Mahal at Santa Cruz Blues Festival (28)

Emphasizing dance more than once on stage, Taj is a musician who wants his audience to move and I might add: move as if you mean it. And believe me, I did and loved every minute of it.

Taj Mahal at Santa Cruz Blues Festival (3)

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