with Bhi Bhiman opening
INTIMATE MAIN STAGE THEATER
The Center for the Arts presents
Sunday, December 9, 7:30PM
THIS CONCERT IS SOLD OUT!
The Center is pleased to welcome back to Grass Valley blues icon Taj Mahal in a special solo performance in our intimate 300-seat Main Stage Theater.
Taj Mahal is one of the most prominent and influential figures in late 20th century blues and roots music. Though his career began more than four decades ago with American blues, he has broadened his artistic scope over the years to include music representing virtually every corner of the world – west Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, the Hawaiian islands and so much more. What ties it all together is his insatiable interest in musical discovery. Over the years, his passion and curiosity have led him around the world, and the resulting global perspective is reflected in his music.
Born Henry St. Claire Fredericks in Harlem on May 17, 1942, Taj grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts. His father was a jazz pianist, composer and arranger of Caribbean descent, and his mother was a gospel singing schoolteacher from South Carolina. Both parents encouraged their children to take pride in their diverse ethnic and cultural roots. His father had an extensive record collection and a shortwave radio that brought sounds from near and far into the home. His parents also started him on classical piano lessons, but after only two weeks, young Henry already had other plans about what and how he wanted to play.
In addition to piano, the young musician learned to play the clarinet, trombone and harmonica, and he loved to sing. He discovered his stepfather’s guitar and became serious about it in his early teens when a guitarist from North Carolina moved in next door and taught him the various styles of Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins, John Lee Hooker and Jimmy Reed and other titans of Delta and Chicago blues.
Springfield in the 1950s was full of recent arrivals, not just from around the U.S. but from all over the globe. “We spoke several dialects in my house – Southern, Caribbean, African – and we heard dialects from eastern and western Europe,” Taj recalls. In addition, musicians from the Caribbean, Africa and all over the U.S. frequently visited the Fredericks home, and Taj became even more fascinated with roots – the origins of all the different forms of music he was hearing, what path they took to reach their current form, and how they influenced each other along the way. He threw himself into the study of older forms of African-American music – a music that the record companies of the day largely ignored.
Henry studied agriculture at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in the early 1960s. Inspired by a dream, he adopted the musical alias of Taj Mahal and formed the popular U. Mass party band, the Elektras. After graduating, he headed west in 1964 to Los Angeles, where he formed the Rising Sons, a six-piece outfit that included guitarist Ry Cooder. The band opened for numerous high-profile touring artists of the ’60s, including Otis Redding, the Temptations and Martha and the Vandellas. Around this same time, Taj also mingled with various blues legends, including Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Sleepy John Estes.