World Blues with Taj Mahal


Featuring Taj Mahal, Vusi Mahlasela, and Fredericks Brown
8 p.m., Saturday, November 16, 2013
Quick Center for the Arts, Fairfield University

Image: Taj MahalFairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts presents World Blues with Taj Mahal, featuring Taj Mahal, Vusi Mahlasela and Fredericks Brown, 8 p.m., Saturday, November 16, 2013. World Bluesis a celebration of American blues music's global influence, as seen from three very diverse points of view and three international points of origin. Anchored by iconic folk-blues legend Taj Mahal, the evening will also feature the soulful South African blues of guitarist/vocalist Vusi Mahlasela, and a modern rock perspective from Fredericks Brown, a New Zealand-based band featuring Taj's daughter, Deva Mahal. A pre-performance discussion takes place at 7:15 p.m. with Brian Torff, professor of music at Fairfield University and a renowned bassist and composer. Mr. Torff's program will compare and contrast American Delta blues and the South African vocal style. Media sponsors are Venü magazine and WPKN (89.5 FM). Tickets are $45, $40, and $35.

Composer, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist 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 today. 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 schoolteacher and gospel singer from South Carolina. Both parents encouraged their children to take pride in their diverse ethnic and cultural roots. Henry studied agriculture at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in the early 1960s. 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. This diversity of musical experience served as the bedrock for Taj's early recordings, showing signs of the musical exploration that would be his hallmark over the . He released 19 albums over the next 30 years including two GRAMMY® winners, Señor Blues (1997) and the live Shoutin' in Key (2000). Overall, he has been nominated for nine GRAMMY® Awards. He was inducted in to the Blues Hall of Fame in 2009. Taj's most recent release is a 15 cd deluxe box set titled Taj Mahal - The Complete Columbia Albums Collection (February 2013 via Columbia/Legacy).

Vusi Mahlasela grew up in the Mamelodi township, just outside of Pretoria, South Africa, where he still resides. In 1976, Vusi's political education began as he witnessed the devastating massacre of more than 200 black South Africans in the Soweto Uprising. He joined a poetry group, The Ancestors of Africa, and also joined the Congress of South African Writers, a group of like-minded artists and writers, including Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer, who paid for Vusi's first guitar lessons. At this point, his political activism truly began. For the "crime" of writing songs of freedom and human dignity, Vusi was held in solitary confinement; he was harassed by the police repeatedly. Vusi responded through his music, writing songs of justice, of freedom, of revolution, of love, of peace and of life. For the "crime" of writing songs of freedom and human dignity, Vusi was arrested and held in solitary confinement. At the fall of Apartheid, Vusi was signed to Shifty Records/BMG records and finally recorded his first album. And as Nadine Gordimer so vividly puts it, "Vusi sings as a bird does, in total response to being alive." He simply became known as "The Voice." In 1994, he performed at Nelson Mandela's presidential inauguration, and "The Voice" was soon heard all over the world. He was in the 2002 documentary Amandla! A Revolution in Four Part Harmony, and fellow South African Dave Matthews signed Vusi to his label, ATO Records, and released "The Voice," a collection of songs from Vusi's South African releases. Say Africa, produced by Taj Mahal, came out in 2011. He recently received an honorary doctorate degree from the prestigious Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa.

Fredericks Brown, the musical collaboration of vocalist Deva Mahal and keyboardist Stephanie Brown, are renowned for their energetic live shows, rich harmonies and beautifully crafted songs. After initially meeting on the festival circuit in New Zealand, Mahal and Brown moved independently to Brooklyn in 2007 where they met up again to form Fredericks Brown. In each other, they discovered a passion for storytelling: writing songs that combine imagery and narrative, which they interpret with a stunning blend of strength and intimacy that draws the listener close. They have performed in theaters and clubs all around the world and released their album Out of the Rain in October 2010.

Tickets are available through the Quick Center Box Office: (203) 254-4010, or toll-free 1-877-ARTS-396 (1-877-278-7396). Tickets can also be purchased online at www.quickcenter.com.

The Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts is located on the campus of Fairfield University at 1073 North Benson Road in Fairfield, Connecticut. Entrance to the Quick Center is through the Barlow Road gate at 200 Barlow Road. Free, secure parking is available. Access for people with disabilities is available throughout the Quick Center for audience members and performers. Hearing amplification devices are available upon request at the Box Office. Fairfield University is located off exit 22 of Interstate-95. For further information and directions, call (203) 254-4010 or 1-877-278-7396, or visit www.quickcenter.com.

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Media Contact: Mike Horyczun, (203) 254-4000 ext. 2647, mhoryczun@fairfield.edu

Posted on October 25, 2013

Vol. 46, No. 95