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Aki Kumar Bollywood Blues at The Sound Room

Aki Kumar Bollywood Blues at The Sound Room

  • 2147 Broadway Ave, Oakland, CA 94612
  • Neighborhood: Downtown
  • Visit Website


Charlie Musselwhite-endorsed Aki Kumar proves to traditionalists that singing in Hindi can co-exist with Chicago blues conventions. This Indian-American’s intense sense of musical discovery as an able vocalist and harmonica player drives worry-and-regret makeovers of Bollywood film songs and adds bounce to a reggae version of “Watermelon Man.” Boosted by top West Coast blues personnel and cross-cultural extras, Kumar proves that the integrity of his music marks the difference between novelty and substance.

Kumar was born and grew up in Mumbai, where his parents' upbringing and eclectic tastes—his father spoke Kannada, his mother Telugu—exposed him to a broad range of sounds—everything from rock 'n' roll and pop to the more traditional sounds of Bollywood film scores and Indian classical music. In his youth, he studied both keyboards and tabla, and acquired his first harmonica from his father. He listened to "everything from Bach to John Denver, from Stevie Wonder to the Police" in addition to music that dominated the Indian subcontinent.

He moved to the US in 1998 to study computer science, initially in Oklahoma City and then at San Jose State University in Silicon Valley. He was first attracted to American oldies radio, and then discovered the blues by visiting nightclubs and bars in the Bay Area.Soon after completing a degree, he went to work at Adobe. He has now turned to music full-time.

Kumar's harmonica playing is rooted in the classical style invented by Little Walter and others, but his blues style is eclectic.He developed his skills by studying with David Barrett, who operates the School of the Blues in San Jose. He played regularly in the band Tip of the Top for several years before forming his own band and launching a solo career.

Kumar expresses his pride in his Indian heritage by blending melodies from Hindi movies and Indian classical music with American blues, creating a fusion of East and West that he calls "Bollywood blues".

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Event Info

  • Dates: June 17, 2023
  • Location: The Sound Room
  • Address: 2147 Broadway Ave, Oakland, CA 94612
  • Time: 7:30 PM
  • Price: $25-$30 + fees
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