Aki Kumar | Zindagi | 2021

Aki Kumar

“Zindagi” (fyi, pronounced zin-duh-gee) means life. And it starts like this: “Walk with the dreams that lie in your heart/ Don't look back, keep moving forward./ When your desires whisper a melody / Become the voice of that song.” We live in such dark times that Aki Kumar, whose lyrics usually lean toward the edgy and challenging, decided the world needed something closer to a kiss. But then, he’s used to upsetting expectations. Born in Mumbai, he came to the U.S. to be a software engineer—until he encountered the music of the blues. Goodbye coding, and hello, blues harmonica. It’s no game. Charlie Musselwhite has sung his praises – Aki has respect from a big dog. As Charlie put it, “Check it out. I wouldn’t steer you wrong.” What he does with the blues is unique—he mixes them with Bollywood. He’s got to be the king of cultural mashup. “Zindagi,” as you’ll discover, is basically a reggae tune sung in Hindi, appropriately presented on a beach in Northern California as shot by the outstanding videographer Jeremiah Hutchens, who also did Aki’s singles for Sony India. But there’s no gimmick in the song. As Downbeat opined, “the integrity of his music marks the difference between novelty and substance.”
“Zindagi” comes from Little Village Foundation, a non-profit record company dedicated to shining a spotlight on music that you might not otherwise hear about—and you should definitely hear Aki. He remarked that “Zindagi” is basically “pandemic-induced creativity.” We can all use some of that.

Youtube - https://youtu.be/O3MzMpiNBtY Spotify - http://spoti.fi/3c6XC7e Apple Music - https://apple.co/3qLAY8M Amazon Music - https://amzn.to/362d8gL

Video credits: Video production - Jeremiah Hutchens Starring - Aki Kumar, June Core, Vance Ehlers, Rome Yamilov

Audio credits: Music & Lyrics - Aki Kumar Vocals - Aki Kumar Guitar - Rome Yamilov Bass - Kid Andersen Organ/Moog - Kid Andersen Drums/Percussion - June Core Tabla - Manesh Judge Piano - Jim Pugh

Engineered and Mixed at Greaseland Studios, USA.

Zindagi Lyrics (translated to English) -

Walk with the dreams that lie in your heart Don't look back, keep movin' forward. When your desires whisper a melody Become the voice of that song.

When will you get this chance again, my friend ? Don't let life pass you by Take a chance - don't let it go, my friend Lest life passes you by...

When your dreams make a ripple Become the destiny of those waves When an unknown path makes you restless Be your own guiding light.

When will you get this chance again, my friend? Don't let life pass you by. Take a chance - don't let it go, my friend Lest life passes you by...

Zindagi lyrics (Hindi)

दिल में जो ख्वाब हैं वोह ख्वाब लेके चल चल, चल चल पीछे न देख बस अब आगे बढ़ जा तू दिल की ये ख्वाइशें जो गुनगुनाये, हर पल हर पल उन नगमों की बस आवाज बन जा तू

ऐसा ये मौका फिर आएगा कब मेरे साथी गुजर न जाए ये ज़िन्दगी बस इक है मौका अब खो न देना मेरे साथी गुजर न जाए ये ज़िन्दगी

सपनो की ये तरंग जब मचाये, हल चल हल चल मंज़िल उन लेहेरों की इस बार बन जा तू अनजानी राह में जब मन सताए, चंचल चंचल अपनी तकदीर का चिराग बन जा तू

ऐसा ये मौका फिर आएगा कब मेरे साथी गुजर न जाए ये ज़िन्दगी बस इक है मौका अब खो न देना मेरे साथी गुजर न जाए ये ज़िन्दगी

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Aki Goes To Bollywood | 2016

akikumar.com

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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!

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Hindi Man Blues | 2018

Aki Kumar

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Liner notes by blues legend Charlie Musselwhite -

Well, what do we have here. A new CD by Aki Kumar! And what a delight it is! But heck, Aki is ALWAYS a delight. His performances never fail to delight! This CD has blues, but also Aki’s adaptation of Bollywood music and blues. So, it’s not really a total blues record, but i’d think all blues fans and harp players everywhere will have a LOT of fun listening to this as i have. It is at the same time fun and interesting to let Aki take you on his musical adventure of bridging cultures. Consider it a new setting for blues and it’s in a huge party atmostphere provided by Aki and a bunch of excellent top-notch musicians. Many will enjoy Aki’s dissing of Trump in the politcal blues: All Bark No Bite. I believe Aki knows that to remain silent is to be complicit.

I’ve always been interested in blending blues and especially blues harmonica with music from other cultures and I think Aki has done a rockin’ job here! I’ve always been impressed by Aki’s singing and his harp playing has always been tasteful with great tone and phrasing. Check it out. I wouldn’t steer you wrong. This would be perfect for a party. It’ll have everybody up and dancing and smiling. It’s that much fun!!!

  • Charlie Musselwhite

About Hindi Man Blues -

Indian-born, San Jose-based Aki Kumar, aka “The Only Bombay Blues Man,” left his home in Mumbai with the intention of working as a software engineer in Silicon Valley. Then he discovered the blues, and his life dramatically changed. Singing and playing harmonica, he steeped himself in the music and became a fixture in blues clubs throughout Northern California, where he developed an unique, audacious blend of Chicago-style blues which then led to playing retro Bollywood pop mixed with the blues.

When he began performing, Kumar initially attempted to downplay his ethnicity and perform straight, Chicago-style blues. “I wanted to make a statement that I was a traditional blues man, so I wanted to be playing blues and have nobody even wonder where I came from.” His attitude soon changed, and with his Little Village Foundation debut, Aki Goes to Bollywood, he 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. That unique blend of East and West reaches a new creative plateau on Aki’s second Little Village Foundation album, Hindi Man Blues, which boasts Aki’s most ambitious cross-cultural fusion to date, and features liner notes by veteran blues great Charlie Musselwhite.

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 straight ahead 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.”

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Don't Hold Back | 2014

Aki Kumar

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Recorded at Greaseland studios in Campbell, California, Aki Kumar’s debut record Don’t Hold Back generated instant buzz in the SF Bay Area blues scene. This album showcases some of Kumar’s original material in addition to classics by such blues greats as Hank Ballard, Snooky Pryor, Memphis Slim and more.

Aki Kumar doesn’t hold back - vocally or on the blues harp - and performs with soulful intensity on all tracks. The tremendously gifted June Core (drums) and Vance Ehlers (bass) anchor a dream rhythm section and there is no dearth of top guitar talent either - the record features appearances by Little Jonny, Johnny Cat Soubrand, Kid Andersen and even a cameo by Rusty Zinn. Veteran saxman Frankie Ramos and pianist Bob Welsh round out the sound with their invaluable contributions on many cuts.

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It Takes Three | 2015

Gary Smith, David Barrett & Aki Kumar

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An unprecedented collaboration between three generations of the San Francisco Bay Area's blues harp masters - Gary Smith, David Barrett and Aki Kumar.

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