Remember Jay Z and MC Punjabi’s “Beware of the Boys?” Well if that was the appetizer, then BlackMahal is the main dish. BlackMahal is a nine-piece band complete with drums, DJs, horns, and hip-hop MCs. Their music takes audiences on a wild ride that gets people on their feet moving to the ‘turban groove,’ created by funky rhythms on drums and turntables, punctuated by playful horns and Ustad Lal Singh Bhatti’s soulful bellows. On August 11, the band will make its first appearance in San Jose as part of the annual San Jose Jazz Fest.


India Currents (IC): How would you describe your music?

Black Mahal (BM): Lots of fun. Hip-Hop + Funk + Jazz with a little bit of Punjabi flavor.

IC:  How did the idea evolve to create fusion music? Why not stick to traditional dhol rhythms?

BM: We felt it was time to bring together all of the music we love in our life into a new sound, something that represents our generation.

IC: Describe your band line up? How did you form the band?

BM: The band lineup consists of a nine piece crew of brilliant musicians. Ustad Lal Singh Bhatti is on lead vocals and dhol. Jon Cook on drums, Jason Lee on turntables, Satish Pillai on Keys, Tim Chang on bass, Pangfua Chang on vocals, Sandeep Bhatt on sax, Dave Wood on trumpet and Vijay Chattha on vocals/mc.

IC: What does the name of your band mean?

BM: After the Taj Mahal was built, Shah Jahan wanted to build an exactly symmetric version in all black marble for himself. He never was able to do it, so we’re picking up the slack.

IC: What are your musical influences?

BM: Everything from Gangstarr to Gurdas Mann.

IC: Do you play primarily for Indian audiences?

BM: Not really. We’ve played for all kinds of audiences from hipsters to hippies. Sometimes people of Indian descent stumble upon our music when we play a festival and then roll right up to the front of the stage. It’s like they can’t believe what’s happening on stage. First confusion, then excitement.

IC: Are your compositions original? Who writes them?

BM: The majority of our songs are original. Different folks have written different parts of each song.

IC: Any new record releases? Where can we find your music?

BM: We only sell our EP CD at our live shows. You can pick it up there. It’s called Music + Love + Dancing.

IC: Is this your first time performing at the SJ jazz Fest? How does it feel?

BM: Yes! We are pumped. Lal Singh Bhatti has been a mainstay in the San Jose area so this will be a homecoming for him and a chance to treat San Jose to something new from a local icon.

IC: Are most of your performances live? Or do you prefer recordings?

BM: All performances are live and all recorded music is typically produced in the studio. Its two different sounds so what you hear on the CD will be very different from what you hear at the festival.

Saturday, August 11. 8 p.m. on the Jazz Beyond Stage at the corner of Post and Market Streets in downtown San Jose. Tickets for a one-day general pass for Saturday are $20.00; tickets for the entire three-day event are $45.

Mona Shah is a multi-platform storyteller with expertise in digital communications, social media strategy, and content curation for Twitter and LinkedIn for C-suite executives. A journalist and editor,...