Vocalist/guitarist Taj Mahal, a repository of the musical traditions of the West African Diaspora in the New World, teams with Hindustani wizard of the mohan vina, V. M. Bhatt and Karnatak virtuoso of the chitra vina, N. Ravikiran. Their interpretation of popular Afro-American songs drawn from various genres is a unique musical synthesis.
In 1992, producer Kavichandran Alexander recorded California bottleneck guitarist Ry Cooder and North Indian classical musician Bhatt in a Santa Barbara church, and the resulting A Meeting by the River
won a 1994 Grammy. Here, Alexander returns to the church with Bhatt and Cooder's old bandmate, Taj Mahal, a blues musician who named himself after the most famous mausoleum in India. Bhatt, a Ravi Shankar student, plays the mohan vina, an instrument he invented to combine the timbre of the arched-top American jazz guitar with the sympathetic strings of the Indian sitar. Ravikiran plays the chitra vina, perhaps the world's oldest slide instrument; Mahal plays National steel guitar and adds moaning scat vocals. With their sliding pitches, all three instruments find the notes between the notes of traditional Western scales, and the three players find a common ground in the religious/sexual cries that skid through scales. --Geoffrey Himes