New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development and the Americana Music Association Foundation announced today that Taj Mahal, the award-winning songwriter, singer, film composer, and multi-instrumentalist, will serve as the 2022-23 NYU/Americana Artist-in-Residence. In his new role, Mahal will present, curate, and moderate a variety of lectures, discussions, workshops, performances, and classroom visits throughout the 2022-23 academic year.
“Taj is a towering musical figure –– a legend who transcended the blues, not by leaving them behind, but by revealing to the world their magnificent scope,” said Jed Hilly, Executive Director of the Americana Music Association Foundation. “A brilliant artist with a musicologist’s mind, he has pursued and elevated the roots of beloved sounds with boundless devotion and skill.”
“We’re thrilled to continue our partnership with the Americana 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 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’s at the heart of so much of what I do and who I am.”
A 2017 Grammy win for TajMo, his collaboration with Keb’ Mo’, brought Mahal’s Grammy tally to three wins and 14 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.
During his residency, which will begin October 18, Mahal will discuss and demonstrate roots music, both in conversation and in a campus-wide presentation where he’ll discuss his life in music, from his humble beginnings to the many generations of the Griot, highlighting on Pan-African Tradition. He’ll also engage with students and faculty in a number of courses, including African-American Music and Songwriters Forum, both of which will be opened to the entire Department of Music & Performing Arts Professions community.
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 collaboration was launched in the Spring 2021 term with a high-profile guest series jointly curated by Steinhardt’s Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions and the Foundation. Award-winning songwriter and recording artist Lori McKenna and film producer and intellectual property advocate Jonathan Taplin were guests in WORDS & MUSIC, an interview series curated and hosted by Director of Songwriting Phil Galdston.
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 Association Foundation to partner on curriculum development and an Americana scholarship program.
The Americana Music Association Foundation (AMAF), a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational and charitable organization, was founded to preserve Americana music through education. The Foundation endeavors to strengthen understanding, awareness and appreciation of cultural heritage, to shine a light on inspiration, and to promote the capacity and engagement of future creators. The foundation accomplishes this mission through educational programs, musical performances and public events. Throughout the year, its partnership with The Americana Music Association and NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development focuses on the preservation of past legacies and traditions that spotlight Americana music’s heritage, while also looking ahead to ensure the future of the community’s generations to come.
Located in the heart of New York City’s Greenwich Village, NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development prepares students for careers in the arts, education, health, media and psychology. Since its founding in 1890, the Steinhardt School's mission has been to expand human capacity through public service, global collaboration, research, scholarship, and practice. To learn more about NYU Steinhardt, visit steinhardt.nyu.edu.