Taj Mahal doesn’t wait for permission. If a sound intrigues him, he sets out to make it. If origins mystify him, he moves to trace them. If rules get in his way, he unapologetically breaks them. To Taj, convention means nothing, but traditions are holy. He has pushed music and culture forward, all while looking lovingly back.
“I just want to be able to make the music that I’m hearing come to me — and that’s what I did,” Taj says. The 76-year-old is home in Berkeley, reflecting on six decades of music-making. “When I say, ‘I did,’ I’m not coming from the ego. The music comes from somewhere. You’re just the conduit it comes through. You’re there to receive the gift.”
Taj is a towering musical figure — a legend who transcended the blues not by leaving them behind, but by revealing their magnificent scope to the world. “The blues is bigger than most people think,” he says. “You could hear Mozart play the blues. It might be more like a lament. It might be more melancholy. But I’m going to tell you: the blues is in there.”
Taj, making his fourth trip to Waterfront, is backed by his longtime collaborators, The Phantom Blues Band, an internationally renowned two-time, Grammy award-winning group in its own right whose members have toured and recorded with Bonnie Raitt, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Robert Cray, and Buddy Guy.