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10/6/2016

AkiKumarfusesbluesandBollywoodSanFranciscoChronicle

Music

AkiKumarfusesbluesand
Bollywood
By Andrew Gilbert | September28,2016 | Updated:October2,201610:26pm
0

Photo:Sc ottStrazzante,TheChronic le

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AkiKumarperformsatLittleLousBBQ.

http://www.sfchronicle.com/music/article/AkiKumartakeshisbluestoBollywood9376180.php

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10/6/2016

AkiKumarfusesbluesandBollywoodSanFranciscoChronicle

AkiKumarwassurethewholeideawasabigmistake.BornandraisedinMumbai,he
discoveredthebluesaftermovingtotheUnitedStates,andquithisdayjobasasoftware
engineerthreeyearsagotofocusonhisburgeoningcareerasaharmonicaplayerandvocaliston
theSouthBaybluesscene.
Inthebackofhismind,hedalwayswanted
tobringtogethertheuproariousBollywood
anthemsofhisyouthwiththelowdown
grooveshedcometoloveintheblues,but
theideaseemedtoooutlandishtopursue.
UntilveteranblueskeyboardistJimPugh
happenedtoaskKumarifhehadanydream
projectsonthedrawingboard.
Nowridingawaveofinternationalattention,
KumarperformsSunday,Oct.2,atHardly
StrictlyBluegrassaspartofaprogramshowcasingartistsassociatedwithPughsLittleVillage
label,whichrecentlyreleasedAkiGoestoBollywood.
JimknewIwasplayingalot,andhecasuallyaskedwhatIhadintheworks,recallsKumar,
36.IreallywasntseriousabouttheBollywoodthing.Ihadalotofdoubts.ButwhenI
mentionedit,hisfacelitup.Toseesomebodywithadifferentperspectivegetreallyexcited
aboutitmadeitseemlikesomethingIshouldpursue.
RecordedatKidAndersensGreaselandStudiosinSanJose,AkiGoestoBollywooddrawson
musicfromseveraldecadesofHindilanguagefilms,includingiconicsongsbycomposerssuch
asR.D.Burman(JanuMeriJaan),AnandMilind(EenaMeenaDeeka)andKishoreKumar
(ChalaJataHoon).
PartofKumarsinitialhesitancystemmedfromfearofoffendingdevotedfansofBollywood,
oneoftheculturalforcesthattiesthesupremelydiversesubcontinentalnationtogether.ButI
wasalsoworriedthatbluesfolkswouldthinkitwasfrivolousandstupid,Kumarsays.Im
pleasedtosaythatnoneofthosefearshavecometrue.Theresponsehasbeenoverwhelmingly
positive.

http://www.sfchronicle.com/music/article/AkiKumartakeshisbluestoBollywood9376180.php

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10/6/2016

AkiKumarfusesbluesandBollywoodSanFranciscoChronicle

Ultimately,whatmakesAkiGoestoBollywoodsuchanengagingalbumisthatKumardraws
onanarrayofbluesstylesfortheEastmeetsWestcommunion,whichiswhatyouwouldget
normallyatoneofmyshows,hesays.
Idontplayoneparticularbluesstyle.IlldoaChicagoshuffle,andalowdowndeltathing,
somethingstraightupandfunky,andajumpblues,soitmadesensetotreattheBollywood
materialthesameway.
KumarmovedtotheUnitedStatesin1998attheageof18,andafterashortstintofstudyingin
OklahomaCity,hetransferredtoSanJoseStateUniversity.Aftergettingturnedontodoowop
andearlyrocknrolllisteningtooldiesradio,hetracedthestylesbacktotheirrootsandfellin
lovewiththeblues.
Lookingforacreativeoutlet,KumarstartedtakingclassesatharmonicaplayerDaveBarretts
SchooloftheBluesinSanJose,whichledhimtoChicagoharpmasterslikeLittleWalter,James
CottonandGeorgeSmith.TheSouthBayscenehaslongboastedseverallivelybluesjam
sessions,andKumarbuiltuphischopsbysittinginregularly.
Hestartedmakinganameforhimselfasrapidlydevelopingplayerwithacommunitarianethos,
andinrecentyearshesbecomeavaluedleader,helpingrunaThursdaynightjamatLittleLous
BBQinCampbell.Heplaysregularlyatallthemajorbluesjoints,fromSanFranciscosBiscuits
andBluesandSanJosesPoorHouseBistrotoFremontsSmokingPigBBQCompany.
Kumar,whorecentlyperformedwithChrisCain,IgorPradoandtheNorwegianbornAndersen,
tearingupLittleLous,speakstotheinternationalreachoftheblues,evenifthemusicisnt
alwayshonoredathome.
ItsanAfricanAmericanartformwithrootsthatgobackatleast150years,Kumarsays.Its
Americasgreatestculturalgifttotheworld,andpartofthemusicalandculturalfabricofthe
U.S.
AndrewGilbertisafreelancewriter.
AkiKumar:HardlyStrictlyBluegrass.NoonatArrowStage,4p.m.atPorchStage,Sunday,
Oct.2.Free.www.hardlystrictlybluegrass.com/2016
ListentosongsonAkiKumarswebsite:www.akikumar.com
http://www.sfchronicle.com/music/article/AkiKumartakeshisbluestoBollywood9376180.php

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