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Bollywood Bluesman Turns Tucson Debut Into A Dance Party | Music

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What happens when quintessential American blues music merges with quintessential Bollywood pop?

Magic on the dance floor.

When the bluesman of Indian originAki Kumarplayed the ninth editionHouse Rockin Blues ReviewatThe Casino BallroomFriday, August 5, it didn’t matter that he spent half his 90 minutes singing in his native Hindi and no one understood what he was singing.






Magic on the dance floor

There was something incredibly infectious about Aki Kumar’s music and performance that drew several hundred spectators to the dance floor Friday.


Cathalena E. Burch, Arizona Daily Star


The soundtrack of these foreign lyrics revamped in blues burst with an infectious energy that drew the crowd of several hundred people away from their tables and onto the dance floor. Kumar proved a universal truth about music: when it’s good, it defies labels and language barriers.

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And Kumar’s music was good. Really good this way that makes you bob your head and do an awkward two step even if you don’t have a dance partner.

Kumar’s concert at El Casino a fundraiser for KXCI Community Radio was his very first in Tucson. Judging by the thunderous applause and hug from the audience, it certainly won’t be the last.






Tucson debut

Bluesman Aki Kumar was accompanied by a trio of musicians including stand-up bassist Vance Ehlers.


Cathalena E, Burch, Arizona Daily Star


It would be easy to say that part of the appeal of his show was curiosity: what exactly Bollywood blues sound like and how a guy from Bombay, India, nearly 9,000 miles from El Ballroom Casino in South Tucson, open your mouth and sound so much like a Chicago bluesman?

Kumar responded with a soulful baritone and a dynamic, sometimes frenetic stage presence that evoked the soul of the blues from a place you would hardly expect from someone who didn’t grow up listening to it. He split his show equally between songs sung and in English and in his native Hindi, drawing from his four studio albums and a handful of singles recorded over the past decade.

He played harmonica like he was Eddie Van Halen, unleashing a monstrous guitar solo in “Eruption,” long bursts that had backing hissing through the crowd. He performed a bit of Prince swagger with the R&B legend’s sexy finger flick and subtle hip twist when he sang “Ruxanna” on his critically acclaimed “Hindi Man Blues” album, and almost nailed the nasal twang on George Jones’ classic 1965 country tune. “Nothing can stop me from loving you.”

He dug deep into the blues vault for late 1930s “Sonny Boy” Williamson’s blazing harmonica “Early in the Morning” (aka “Bout the Break of Day”) before glimpsing the future of the genre with his latest original single, Zindagi (pronounced zin-duh-gee).

With every song he sang, whether in Hindi or English, the crowd on the dance floor swelled and a sea of ​​mostly older people tried to keep the time and the energy going. of Kumar.

This is another universal musical truth that Kumar taught us: if the music moves, you move.






Heather Hardy

Tucson blueswoman Heather Hardy was backed by the Dusty City Blues Band when she opened for Aki Kumar at the El Casino Ballroom on Friday night.


Cathalena E. Burch, Arizona Daily Star


Tucson Blues Artists Heather Hardy and the Dusty City Blues Band opened the show, which featured Hardy’s wonderful blues vocals and weird electric violin chops. At times his violin sounded like Kumar’s harmonica and at other times it took on the sonic sheen of a saxophone.

Hardy and the band are set to perform the Congress Hotel’s Cookout show on the Square Stage on August 28. For tickets and details, visit hotelcongress.com.

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at [email protected] On Twitter @Starburch

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