Hailed as a star among the next generation of West Coast blues artists and versatile in many different styles of roots music, Kumar is equally at ease rocking a Jimmy Reed number in English as he is belting out a signature, swingin' re-interpretation of a Bollywood classic in Hindi. Cleverly crafted originals featuring his masterful blues harmonica riffs are a highlight of this charismatic entertainer's live performances.
Indian-born, San Jose-based Aki Kumar, aka "The Only Bombay Blues Man," left his home in Mumbai for the United States with the intention of working as a software engineer. Then he discovered the blues, and his life dramatically changed.
With his Little Village Foundation debut, "Aki Goes to Bollywood", Kumar began integrating elements of Indian music into his musical and visual presentation, making for a multi-cultural mash-up that sounds like no one else, yet never loses touch with its blues foundation. Kumar’s follow-up album, "Hindi Man Blues", boasts his most ambitious cross-cultural fusion to date, and features liner notes by veteran blues great Charlie Musselwhite. Kumar recently performed at the prestigious Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, has been featured on PRI “The World,” and has toured in Russia, South America and Scandinavia.
Special Guest: John Blues Boyd
For those who love the blues, the thrill of discovering a new artist is still special. Blues singer John “Blues” Boyd just released The Real Deal—at 71 years young—as a testament that the blues continues to be a vital American art form that will never die. Born in Greenwood, Mississippi, Boyd picked cotton as a youngster, worked at hard labor, and loved to sing. Relocating to the Bay Area in the 1980’s he was a roofer, sat in at local clubs, retired, and took care of his ailing wife, who passed in 2014. That’s when he became a bluesman full time.
Under the tutelage of Jim Pugh at Little Village Foundation, and with the production savvy of Kid Anderson from Greaseland Studios, Boyd was able to make an album of pure blues the way they use to do back in the day. He wrote most of the songs, letting Anderson take over the controls and procure all the accompanying musicians.Opening with the autobiographical title track, there is an immediate sense of an authentic “big sound” upon which Boyd lays his songs.
“My first album was really about my identity,” the artist states. “Now I feel it is time to be more direct about what’s happening out there in the world. The blues scene is my home, and the scene can be pretty conservative, but I want people to know where I stand. There’s a good amount of focus on Bollywood classics on the new album, and I even throw in a song about President Trump called ‘All Bark No Bite.’ The production and arrangements are tighter this time around. ‘Yoh Surmayi Shaam’ has lyrics that my mom wrote and sings, she turned 75 this year and it’s a really nice way to represent her musical contribution to my life. We also do a version of Herbie Hancock’s ‘Watermelon Man.’
”Kumar’s visionary stylistic mix has already won him widespread attention. In addition to the local blues venues, where he’s built an enthusiastic audience, he’s performed at the prestigious Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, been featured on PRI “The World,” and has toured in Russia and Scandinavia. Now, after spending more than a decade developing his sound with the help of some of the Bay Area’s finest blues players, Aki Kumar continues to take his love for the blues to new and fascinating place.
“In a musical sense, this album is the direction that my career is heading towards. I’m never going to be a straightahead blues artist. I worked really hard to establish some blues credibility, and now I’m seeing that blues fans are really accepting of my new direction. It’s a pretty interesting adventure.”