The Taj Mahal Trio performs in the “World Blues Tour”


On Thursday evening, the McCain Performance Series hosted the “World Blues” tour presented by Columbia Artists Management in McCain Auditorium. The concert featured The Taj Mahal Trio, Vusi Mahlasela and the Fredericks Brown band.

The Taj Mahal Trio is comprised of Taj Mahal, a composer, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist. Mahal has been a well-known part of the blues and roots music scene for forty years. Of the nine Grammy awards Mahal has been nominated for, he has won two Grammy awards for his albums Seńor Blues (1997) and the live album Shoutin’ in Key (2000).

Billy Rich, the bassist of the Taj Mahal Trio, is from Omaha, Neb. Rich had the chance to perform many shows with Jimi Hendrix until joining the Taj Mahal Trio in 1972. On July 29, 2004 Rich was inducted into the Nebraska Music Hall of Fame.

Kester Smith plays the drums in the Taj Mahal Trio. Smith is from Trinidad, West Indies. His music career began when he started playing the drums in the Trinidad band, Andre Tanker and The Flamingos. Smith has appeared in Saturday Night Live, The Mike Douglas Show and Montreaux Jazz Festival.

Vusi Mahlasela is from Pretoria, South Africa. Mahlesela’s interest in music began when he and his neighborhood friends started a band, Mahlesela made his first guitar out of fishing wire and a can to learn how to play.

The Fredericks Brown Band is comprised of Deva Mahal, vocalist and daughter of Taj Mahal, and Stephanie Brown, keyboardist. Both members are from New Zealand. However, they did not form their band until they met in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 2007. The Fredericks Brown Band has worked with Kanye West and Common.

The Fredericks Brown Band was the opening act for the “World Blues Tour.” The band began with a song telling a story about love and heart break. The band played three more jazz songs before introducing Mahlasela.

Mahlasela talked about the struggles due to the Apartheid in South Africa in between his performances. Mahlesela felt strongly about forgiveness.

“Forgiveness – if you don’t forgive each other, you become the prisoner,” Mahlesela said.

During one of his final songs, Mahlesela played “2 Birds.” Mahlesela said the song was about two birds that lived in an area full of drought and hunger. He explained that one bird was blind, and one bird did not have wings and that together, the birds flew off to a greener land.

“We need to honor each other as people, listen to each other, whatever our differences are, through love we can save one another, together nothing is too difficult,” Mahlesela said.

Finally, the Taj Mahal Trio, the headliner of the event, performed. The Taj Mahal Trio played a host of blues songs about love and other life experiences. Throughout the Trio’s performance there were many standing ovations.

Nicholas Yetter, a pianist originally from Columbus, Ohio, said many great things about The Taj Mahal Trio.

“Well, obviously Taj Mahal is just amazing, and so his daughter,” Yetter said. “The amount of stage presence they have is just absolutely phenomenal, there is nothing really like it, just by a single movement, they can get the whole crowd moving.”

After a standing ovation and a loud crowd of cheering fans, the Taj Mahal Trio, Mahlasela, and the Fredericks Brown band performed an encore together, featuring vocals from both Taj and Deva Mahal.

“The encore is called ‘Everybody is Somebody’ because everybody is somebody and nobody is nobody,” Taj Mahal said.