Aki Goes To Bollywood
Liner notes by Jason Ricci -
I first met Akarsha Kumar over ten years ago. He was already a well studied traditional player, already the shining star pupil of the discerning, tasteful and careful educator and player David Barrett. I was impressed by the young man’s ability to play traditional blues in the style of Little Walter and other past icons better than most I have heard twice his years in age and time on the harmonica. He was humble, funny, good looking and was engaged to an equally gifted young lady. I communicated with Aki several more times over the last ten years on a very shallow, harmonica-esque level, at best.
If you are listening to Aki’s music while reading this, you are hearing a real artist – not just another blues harmonica player. Aki Kumar is too strong for simple techniques, trends, or cliques. This music you’re hearing is an honest reflection of a brave, unashamed, bold, individual taking risks with a sense of humor, integrity and self that few artists of any genre have ever really dared to do especially on this early of an outing. I’m impressed. I’m a fan.
Aki stands to lose a lot from a marketing perspective with this release: These mostly Indian songs done in a Western fashion by a natural born Indian artist are something not too short of actual blasphemy in India. My Indian friends tell me there is a real risk of insult to Indian culture and sacred Indian music culture at work here. Conversely, Aki’s album is not TRADITIONAL blues either… Aki is blending Indian pop songs with traditional blues approaches, singing unafraid with his accent and using sitars behind Delta blues jams when he’s not putting Howlin’ Wolf behind beloved Indian Pop tunes. That is NOT a formula for success in the growing, rigid world of Blues Purists. Blues purity is how Aki was musically raised in this country… from the nest of the Bay Area and under the wings of birds like Mark Hummel, David Barrett, Rick Estrin and others this Bali-Bird was hatched. No this album is not a “safe” or even expected Blues release…This album is a marketing nightmare, an impossible sell, a potential financial failure, a slap in the face to both the Eastern and Westen Cultures that nutured him as a child both culturally and musically…. This album is great art!