Deva Mahal of Fredrick Browns pays tribute to Cafe au Go Go.

Last Thursday night, Greenwich House Music School had their final performance in a month long tribute to Café au Go Go, celebrating what would have been their 50th Anniversary. Back in its heyday, the legendary café had welcomed such artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and B.B. King.

Soul singer and all around vocal powerhouse, Deva Mahal, tore down the house in the true spirit of the original café. Any stiffness that existed in the intimate schoolhouse venue immediately vanished as Deva and her band broke into their smoldering soul and funk melodies.

Deva Mahal Twitter

(image sourced via twitter)

Deva Mahal is the daughter of famed blues musician Taj Mahal. Growing up in what Deva calls a creative household, always inspired her towards artistic pursuits. A natural vocalist, Deva did not start singing until college when she started her first band called “Soul Project,”drawing from her earliest musical inspirations Lauren Hill, Mary J. Blige and Bill Withers.

Most recently, Deva has been part of the New Zealand band Fredrick Browns. A musical collaboration with show stopping keyboardist Steph Brown, combining Deva’s soul and blues background with Steph’s experimental island influenced keyboarding. Internationally renown, the band has toured around the world, working with the likes of Kanye West and Common.

Deva Mahal Hands up

Last night, featured a mix of Fredricks Brown hits and Deva’s own originals. (She is expected to come out with her own full-length solo album soon.) The band included Binky Griptite on the guitar, Fen Ikner on the drums and Steph Brown on keyboard. Overall, the energetic performance was a musical hybrid, mixing rich harmonies with electrifying blues and R&B grounded in the 60s-era southern-soul tradition.

Of course, Deva’s astonishingly powerful vocals dominated the stage, singing about love and heartbreak in classical soul vocals. Deva was dressed in a shiny, dazzling short jacket over a fitted black dress, topped with large triangle gold earrings and short crop of hair, calling to mind the cool aesthetics of a 1970’s funk singer. With golden tambourine in hand, she pulled and shook her body into every lyric.

fredricks brown

(image sourced via nzmusician)

With a raw and impassioned explosion of a voice, Deva belts out deeply confessional, heart-wrenching lyrics. While listening to her, you can’t help but feel yourself digging ever deeper, tearing out your own buried emotions and heartbreak. With melodies that dip and lift in different way, you leave feeling like you just got off a rollercoaster.

Her songs have a neo-soul feel, with bluesy moans over blended funk harmony and reggae beats. Weeping gospel-sounding keyboarding strains, while hard-driving funk wallops in the background. All the while, Deva slow-boils, building up vocal depth until finally she finally belts out and screams at gut-punching heights lyrics such as “Where did our love go babe?” and “Tell me how much you love me.”

Deva Mahal at The Beehive

The bands style is truly genre blending, with strong reggae and island sounds incorporated into many of their songs.  Growing up on Kauai, Deva admits to the influence it has had on her sound. You can hear lyrics such as “deep in the water, sinking in the Bermuda” on the song Four Walls. New Zealander, Steph Brown on keyboards, also contributes to the island acoustics, with long stretching keyboard draws and slow rhythmic beats. Steph also offers up astonishing keyboard solos, at certain points giving in to powerful manipulations that call to mind heavy electronic music.

Overall, Deva Mahal and her band are an unquestionable force, offering something truly unique. Deva is a fearless powerhouse, with vocal talent is impossible to deny. If your heart is aching for some relentless, gut-wrenching, southern-soul vocals, Deva Mahal is your girl. She alongside Fredrick Browns band will be playing at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan on May 9th.

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