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  • Writer's pictureThe Sound Cafe

Taj Mahal, 2022-23 NYU/Americana Artist-in-Residence With Special Guest Leyla McCalla March 27-29

New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development and the Americana Music Foundation announced today that Taj Mahal, the award-winning songwriter, singer, film composer, and multi-instrumentalist, will continue his role as the 2022-23 NYU/Americana Artist-in-Residence with a three-day visit to NYU’s Washington Square campus this Spring. This term’s events will kick off on Monday, March 27th with 71 Generations: A Musical Exploration of the Griot and Pan African Traditions, a conversation between Mahal and noted cellist/songwriter Leyla McCalla, moderated by Smithsonian National Museum of American History curator Krystal Klingenberg.

This marks the first collaboration between the University, the Americana Music Foundation, and the Smithsonian. “I’m absolutely thrilled to watch our partnerships grow in this organic way,” said Jed Hilly, Executive Director of the Americana Music Association and Foundation. “The opportunity to work with students and faculty at one of our nation’s most important universities and curators at our nation’s premier museum is a perfect example of our mission.”

“We’re thrilled to continue our partnership with the Americana Music Foundation,” said Jack H. Knott, Gale and Ira Drukier Dean of NYU Steinhardt. “We can think of no artist more worthy of this honor than Taj Mahal and we eagerly anticipate his work throughout our Department of Music & Performing Arts Professions (MPAP) and, specifically, in our Songwriting Program.” “I’m honored to take on this role,” said Mahal. “It’s an incredible opportunity to work with the diverse NYU student body and to explore and spread the word about the music and sounds from all over the world that are at the heart of so much of what I do and who I am.”

“We proudly welcome the return to NYU of one of our distinguished alumni, the remarkable Leyla McCalla,” said MPAP Chair, Professor Marilyn Nonken. “For our students to meet with and hear from her and Taj Mahal will be an unforgettable experience.” Nonken noted that Mahal and McCalla will visit a number of classes and perform in The Music That Made Me: A Song Swap, on Tuesday, March 28. The Monday and Tuesday evening events will be held in NYU’s historic Provincetown Playhouse and be streamed live via YouTube.

Mahal’s residency coincides with the highly-anticipated April 2023 release of Savoy, a recording centered around the music that shaped his influential career. A 2023 Grammy win for Get on Board, Mahal’s collaboration with Ry Cooder, brought the Artist-in-Residence’s Grammy tally to four wins and 15 nominations, and underscored his undiminished relevance more than 50 years after his solo debut. A member of the Blues Hall of Fame and recent recipient of a star on the Blues Walk-of-Fame in Memphis, he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Americana Music Association in 2014. Over the years, he has also emerged as a mind-boggling, multifaceted instrumentalist. In addition to the guitar, he is proficient on 20 different instruments –– and counting. Using traditional country blues as a starting place, Mahal perfumes the pot by mixing a spicy concoction of Afrocentric roots music, a blues gumbo kissed by reggae, Latin, R&B, Cajun, Caribbean rhythms, gospel, West African folk, jazz, calypso, and Hawaiian slack key.

Mahal’s residency follows that of Rosanne Cash, the inaugural Americana Artist-in-Residence. The project is an expansion of the partnership between the Foundation and the University, designed to enhance the understanding of and appreciation for the origins, history, and cultural impact of Americana music. The NYU AMF collaboration was launched in the Spring of 2021 by Hilly and Director of Songwriting Phil Galdston term with a high-profile guest series jointly curated by Steinhardt’s Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions and the Foundation.

In addition to the annual NYU/Americana Artist-in-Residence and continuing high-profile guest series, plans call for NYU Steinhardt and the Americana Music Foundation to partner on curriculum development and an Americana scholarship program.


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