Blues harp star goes back to Bollywood for blues inspiration


How does a software engineer from Mumbai end up becoming a rising star of blues harmonica?

Aki Kumar had to come full circle to discover his music identity, but if you wanted to sum up the story, just check the title of his last recording, Aki Goes to Bollywood.

“A lot of things came together in a great way at the same time,” Kumar explains, reminiscing over his start in the music scene of San Francisco’s Bay Area. “These songs were around when I was a kid — some of them, when my parents were kids, because they’re classics on the airwaves in India. That music was always part of my life, but it was only much later when I was getting serious about blues that I started to consider similarities in certain songs.”

About five years ago, the singer and harmonica player had an “ah-ha moment.”

“I was alone humming this Indian song I grew up listening to and I realized this song had a blues progression to it that I could sing with a Jimmy Reed kind of feel. I recorded it on my first album just to test the waters and a lot of people liked the feel of it. The blues feel made it accessible and the alien singing (in Hindi) made it exotic.”

That was the tune Ajeeb Daastaan Hei Yeh (This is a Strange Tale), the last track on Kumar’s first release from 2014, Don’t Hold Back.

Since then, he’s put out two more noteworthy albums — It Takes Three, a collaboration with two other Bay Area harp players, Gary Smith and David Barrett, and 2016’s Aki Goes to Bollywood (on Greaseland), with cover graphics like a mock-up for a Bollywood movie poster. The next, fourth instalment, is due out next fall, and Kumar says it takes his whole …read more

Source:: Edmonton Journal

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