"Taj Mahal and the Hula Blues" - 1997
1. The Calypsonians
2. Coconut Man
3. Sacred Island
4. Betty n' Dupree
5. The New Hula Blues
6. No Na Mamo
7. Mailbox Blues
TAJ MAHAL - Vocals, Dobro Guitar
PONCHO GRAHAM - Acoustic Bass
KESTER SMITH - Drums
PAT COCKETT - Liliu Ukulele
MICHAEL BARRETTO - Baritone Ukulele
WAYNE JACINTHO - Tenor Ukulele
CARLOS ANDRADE - Slack-Key Guitar
FRED LUNT - Hawaiian Steel Guitar
RUDY COSTA -Saxophones, Treble, Kalimba,, Pan Pipe, Clarinet, Zither
Hawai - tropical vacation paradise! A tourist Eldorado that combines american accessability with the exotic ambience of the South Pacific. But the archipelago is far more then the catalogue econo dream trip. It is a region with a great cultural heritage and a unique and living musical tradition. Taj Mahal guesses that the "Musician density" on the Islands is rivaled only by Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago.
Mahal knows what he's talking about. He lived on Hawaii for twelve years, on northern Kauai, the Archipelago's "green Island". A very long time for such a restless person as the revered Blues & Roots musician. Last year he made the decision to move back to L.A.. This decision did not come easily to him, and the "Hula Blues" project, which marked Mahals first return to his home of so many years, serves as testimony.
Taj Mahal has always been fascinated and moved by Hawaiian Music. 58 year old Mahal recalls that even as a child he felt draw to the hawaiian sounds. During his years on Kauai he was able to immerse himself in the music, make contact and strike up friendships with hawaiian musicians, for whom making music is an inseparable aspect of social life: a fertile breeding ground for the "Hula Blues" project, which took on form at a much later stage, as a "homecoming party" with old friends, so to speak.
It is nothing new for Taj Mahal to approach other cultural traditions. Quite the contrary. Even though he tends to find himself categorized as a blues man, this does not do his complex and unique musical persona justice. At an early stage in his career he began fusing Jazz, Funk and Soul into his singular blues style. Later on he incorporated Reggae and Calypso into his individual brand of Roots - Music. In recent years he has been working on crosscultural projects with musicians as diverse as the West African Ali Farka Toure and India's Vishwa Mohan Bhatt.
For this "musical banquet" (Mahal) he selected a group of old friends and fellow travellers. Six of the eight band members were born and raised in Hawaii and still make their home on the islands. During his Kauai years Mahal enjoyed countless jam sessions with these musicians in venues ranging from his back porch to stage theaters. They mainly play typical hawaiian instruments: diverse Ukeleles, Slack Key Guitar and Hawaiian Steel Guitar.
Taj met ukelele player Michail Barretto while they were both enjoying one of their favorite pastimes, fishing ("The rest is history..." says Barretto with a wink). Barretto is a trained computer programmer and a playwright. Wayne Jacintho is a painter/sculptor who does not see himself as a professional musician - an understanding he has in common with many hawaiians who were brought up surrounded by music. Pat Cockett, Poncho Graham, Carlos Andrade (lead vocalist on the atmospheric "No Ná Mamo") and Fred Lunt have been playing together for years as menbers of "Napali" one of Hawaiis top bands. Drummer Kester Smith (born in Grenada and raised in Trinidad) and reed man/multiinstrumentalist Rudy Costa were already vital members of Mahal's "International Rhythm Band" and the "Intergalactic Soul Messengers Band" in the seventies.
"A cultural blend of joy, love and harmony" - that is how Taj Mahal sums up those fruitful days in the idyllic studio in Kauai, in the course of which the "Hula Blues" band developed an unmistakable, individual and organic sound. The vibrant spirit of this meeting is abundant in every song. With effortless abandon the band plays a Mahal classic, "Mailbox Blues", a beautifully flowing instrumental, "Sacred Island" and a couple of songs "The Calypsonians", "Coconut Man", with subtle pop potential. The groovy Mélange of "Hula Blues" ranges from the festive to the sentimental and definitely marks a high point in Taj Mahals substantial discography.
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