Blues/world music artist Taj Mahal was born Henry Saint Clair Fredericks in Harlem, New York, on May 17, 1942, to a musical family; his father was a jazz pianist/composer and his mother was a singer and teacher. The family moved to Springfield, Massachusetts during Fredericks’s youth, and he grew up in a rich, diverse cultural environment. A singer, he went on to learn a variety of instruments, including the piano, clarinet and harmonica, taking up the guitar and bass as well and learning blues styles.
A statuesque, emotional presence onstage who feels the music wholly in his body, Mahal has become known for exploring a wide range of genres and earned a reputation as a musicologist with attention paid to the cultural origins of song, including his own Caribbean and African-American/Southern roots (captured in his song “West Indian Revelation” for instance) as well as other communities from around the world. His music has incorporated the sounds of the Pacific Isles, South Asia and West and East Africa, among others.