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Strong Man Holler: The Legendary Taj Mahal

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Taj Mahal has guts. What else would explain the song title, "You Ain't No Streetwalker Mama, Honey, But I Do Like the Way You Strut Your Stuff?"

In the history of the blues, there's never been anyone as bold, funny, carnal and canny.

Mahal puts those qualities and more into his songs, creating music that appeals to audiences around the planet. He writes for grown ups, children, for movies and plays. He's performed in a dozen languages, including jive. And he's encouraged fans to celebrate scores of blues artists who would otherwise be lost to history.

Mahal is, in a word, great. And after a rousing interview with Gwen Thompkins at this year's New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, he's great today on Music Inside Out.

TAJ MAHAL & THE MUSIC OF LOUISIANA

When an out-of-town visitor comes to Louisiana once, it's time to break out the guest towels and maybe even iron the sheets. But three times in a single month? Well, that's no visitor — he's family.

In May, blues man TajMahal played the last day of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Then, later that month, he came back to perform in Lafayette and Baton Rouge.

Mahal's Cajun French isn't bad, cher. And he's got a good memory for local musicians (with a little help from KRVS chief engineer Karl Fontenot). But Mahal says his love affair with the state began in the 1950s and 60s, when he heard Fats Domino play.

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Taj Mahal discusses the music of New Orleans

PLAYLIST

Only some of the music heard in this hour is available for you to stream, but that hasn’t stopped us from putting together a great playlist of TajMahal’s music for you to enjoy on your desktop or on your mobile device. The complete playlist can be found here, ready for you to print and take with you to your local record store.

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Gwen Thompkins is a New Orleans native, NPR veteran and host of WWNO's Music Inside Out, where she brings to bear the knowledge and experience she amassed as senior editor of Weekend Edition, an East Africa correspondent, the holder of Nieman and Watson Fellowships, and as a longtime student of music from around the world.