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Courtesy of Spotlight Central, Photo courtesy of Love Imagery



First Published: July 30, 2022

Though temperatures outside are over 100 degrees, it was comfortably cool inside the historic Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway, New Jersey, on Wednesday night, July 20, 2022, where music lovers won multiple Grammy Awards. Awaiting a concert by award-winning recording artist Taj. Mahal.

Real name Henry St. Claire Fredericks, Jr., Mahal was born on May 17, 1942 in Harlem, New York. Inspired by the works of Gandhi at an early age, he was fascinated by India and was also influenced by socialist ideas. Tolerance — Henry Jr. eventually changed his name to the Taj Mahal.

Raised in Springfield, Massachusetts, Mahal’s mother was a member of a gospel choir, and his father was a jazz pianist, composer and arranger who frequently hosted musicians from the Caribbean and Africa in addition to the United States. . Taj’s parents started him classical with his piano lessons, but he soon expanded his musical range to include learning the clarinet, trombone and harmonica. He also had a real taste for singing.

After his father died in an accident, his mother remarried, Taj began playing his stepfather’s guitar in his early teens, and a North Carolina guitarist moved in next door, teaching him various styles of Delta and Chicago blues. When I got serious

At the age of 16, Mahal started working on a local dairy farm and by the age of 19 he was a farm foreman. As a result, he considered pursuing his farming career. Over the years, this continued passion led him to perform regularly at Farm Aid concerts.

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In the early sixties he studied agriculture at UMass Amherst, where he formed the band The Elektras. After graduating, he headed west to Los Angeles, where guitarist Rye founded his six-piece group, The Rising Suns, which included Cooder. The band opened for many of the notable artists of the 60’s, including Otis Redding, The Temptations, Martha Reeves and The Vandellas.

Around the same time, Mahal also had the opportunity to work with various blues legends, notably Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Sleepy John Estes.

This diverse musical experience laid the foundation for Mahal’s first three recordings. Taj Mahal1968s natchell bluesand the 1969s giant step. These three influential albums signaled the musical explorations that would characterize Mahal in the years to come.

During the 70s, Mahal carved out a unique musical niche with a string of recordings, including a Grammy-nominated film soundtrack. sounderIn the ’80s, he not only released three well-known children’s albums, but also immersed himself in the music and culture of his new home in Hawaii. In the 90s, he released a Grammy-winning recording, Senor Blues, And in 2018, he recorded a Grammy-winning blues album, TajimoOverall, Mahal has been nominated for ten Grammy Awards.

Inside the beautiful Union County Performing Arts Center, the lights dim and ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, Taj Mahal Quartet’ is announced. The Taj Mahal and his group — Bill Rich on bass, Kester Smith on drums, and Bobby Ingano on guitar — break into a dance to recorded music while the audience applauds, yells, and yells.

Taking a seat among his unique collection of string instruments, Mahal welcomes the crowd and introduces his first song, acknowledging: It’s a narrative song about a judge, the judge’s wife, corn liquor, the “perpetrator”, and a girl named Nell. I know/Because you committed a crime.” On “Slow Drugs,” it’s a blues number featuring Mahal picking and banjo strumming.

The crowd cheers and Mahal and Co. start “Bring It With You When You Come”. This is an island vibe number with Mahal smiling while playing the ukulele. Finally, Mahal reveals: The reason I like old music is because the story doesn’t go away. Even if the person changes, the song does not change. “

Mahal’s voice yells over the band on the bluesy ‘Done Changed My Way of Living’, and the crowd recognizes the intro of ‘Fishin’ Blues’ and cheers. Audiences joined in on the song’s catchy “I’m a goin ‘fishin’/Yes, I’m goin ‘fishin’/And my baby goin ‘fishin'” chorus to get this country blues to her number. Have fun singing along. Mahal’s guitar solo.

The crowd whistled and cheered at Mahal’s slow bluesy cover version of Grateful Dead’s “Corrina,” while Mahal enjoyed the driving blues number “Queen Bee.” I will refrain from the attractive “Rock me to my soul” of this song.

To the cheers of the crowd, Mahal said, “Thank you! How are we feeling?” before asking, “Does anyone here know how to take a walk?” The audience applauds, and the audience responds with rapturous applause, as Mahal strums his ferocious, flavorful guitars on the 12/8 blues “Betty and Dupree,” which plays a guitar solo.

The rhythmic folk tune “Lovin’ in my Baby’s Eye” has music lovers singing and dancing in the aisles to its slow groove. Mahal and Co. presents his reggae-style arrangement of Mahal’s rocking “Stagger Lee.” his head as he spins the musical threads in this classic narrative song.

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On “Sailing Into Walkers Kay,” Mahal plays a snippet of Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” on a hollow-body electric guitar, accompanied by percussionist Kester Smith’s solid drumming. Ask the audience to “get in the rhythm” by clapping on the second and fourth beats.

Following the reggae-inspired “When I Feel the Sea Beneath My Soul,” Mahal and his quartet are joined by Bill Rich playing a funky bass line and Mahal’s distorted electric guitar solo letting the music roar with joy. We will show off the bluesy production of “CC Rider” that brings us. A lover of the house who clings to all his notes.

Mahal exclaims, “Thank you so much, everyone!” An audience member shouts, “You’re lifting my soul!” Mahal went on to explain, “Thanks to the development of microphones, we are fortunate to receive music recorded over 100 years,” before adding, “It was then that America began to listen to itself. ‘ explained.

After introducing the members of his band, Mahal features guitarist Bobby Ingano on “Twilight in Hawaii”. Ingano’s Hawaiian His Steel His guitar’s glorious melodies swirl through the auditorium, taking concert-goers on a musical journey. The musicians follow up with a dreamy rendition of Santo and Johnny’s “Sleep Walk.” Rich’s bass and Smith’s drums keep the rhythm, while Ingano’s steel guitar thunders as Mahal strums his guitar and sips the notes.

Mahal counts “1, 2, 3, 4” and the band begins “Blackjack Davey”. It’s a catchy song with a reggae feel with Mahal playing Dobro. Afterwards, he and the band sang, perhaps the biggest surprise of the night, a cover version of The Monkees’ “Take a Giant Step,” in which Mahal said, “Come along, leave yesterday behind/ And take a big step outside your city,” he tweeted. To all members of the crowd who react with a standing ovation.

“It’s about humanity,” Mahal said of the nature of his music. increase.

Mahal chanted the lyrics of his song “Everybody is Somebody” aloud, saying, “If a man is born in luxury, he is somebody / If a man is born in poverty, he is nobody / Nobody is someone/nobody is anyone.” After warning that “hands, bodies and voices will be asked to participate,” Mahal and Co. play a rhythmic number, the crowd joins in, and Mahal “Let me hear! Come on, Jersey, fill the room!”

The audience dances to the song’s irresistible groove, waving in the air and singing cheerfully before ending with cheers and a standing ovation. The applause continues, with Mahal and his musicians bowing together and dancing together off the stage, sustaining whistling and cheering.

As the audience exits the UCPAC auditorium, chat with several concertgoers who share their impressions of tonight’s Taj Mahal performance. A Plainfield lich exclaims: You put on a great show as usual. He’s really good and his voice is incredible. ” Elizabeth Paige declares: I loved his facial expressions and the way he moved his body while playing music. He looked like he was really enjoying himself. Evan of Woodbridge agrees.

Dorothy of Rahway said: His banjo playing was excellent and I especially liked him playing old blues tunes. “

Rahway’s Dan confesses: From now on, here he hopes to see more shows at UCPAC. Rahway’s Janine agrees, adding: i love everything about it.

Geoffrey of Ringwood said: I really liked the addition of the Hawaiian Steel Guitar. I especially liked the songs ‘Corina’ and ‘Take a Giant Step’,” before stating, ‘I brought my mother along tonight. Like me, we had a great time tonight.” exclaims Carol of Ringwood, Jeffrey’s mother. I read about the concert and was curious. I love all kinds of music and was amazed at how much I loved the Taj Mahal and his band,” she added, before adding, “Plus, this theater is a gem.

Georgia, who hails from Jersey City, admitted, “I was in college the last time I heard the Taj Mahal, and tonight it sounded better than ever,” adding, “All the energy he brought to the show. I loved it,” he said. Finally, chat with Westfield’s girlfriend Linda. Linda said, “It was a great concert. I loved it!” “The last time I saw the Taj Mahal was in his 1970s, and I can assure you that he is still as great today!”

For more information on the Taj Mahal, visit tajblues.com. Upcoming concerts at UCPAC including Dionne Warwick on September 9th, Josh Turner on October 20th, Little River Band on October 29th, Black Violin on November 10th and Mandy Patinkin on February 18th, 2023 For information on , click ucpac.org.

Photo by Love Imagery

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