Bollywood bluesman turns Tucson debut into dance party

What happens when quintessential American blues new music fuses with India’s quintessential Bollywood pop?

Magic on the dance floor.

When Indian-born bluesman Aki Kumar played the ninth annual House Rockin’ Blues Review at El On line casino Ballroom on Friday, Aug. 5, it failed to subject that he expended 50 % of his 90 minutes singing in his indigenous Hindi and that no 1 could fully grasp what he was singing.

The soundtrack to those people international lyrics supplied a bluesified makeover was poppin’ with an infectious electrical power that lured the crowd of several hundred away from their tables and on to the dance ground.Kumar proved a universal reality about songs: When it really is excellent, it defies labels and language boundaries.

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And Kumar’s new music was superior. Truly superior in that way that has you bobbing your head and undertaking an uncomfortable two-move even if you do not have a dance husband or wife.

Kumar’s concert at El On line casino — a fundraiser for KXCI local community radio — was his first at any time in Tucson. Judging by the audience’s thunderous applause and embrace, it unquestionably won’t be his past.

It would be simple to say that section of the allure of his present was curiosity: What does Bollywood blues seem like exactly and how does a person from Bombay, India — just about 9,000 miles from the El Casino Ballroom in South Tucson — open his mouth and seem so considerably like a Chicago bluesman?

Kumar answered with a soulful baritone and dynamic often frenetic phase presence that conjured the soul of blues from a place you would hardly assume from another person who failed to improve up listening to it. He split his exhibit evenly among tracks sung and English and in his native Hindi, drawing from his 4 studio albums and handful of singles recorded over the past 10 years. 

He played harmonica like he was Eddie Van Halen unleashing a monster guitar solo in “Eruption,” long bursts that had some in the crowd whistling assistance. He effected a little little bit of a Prince swagger — the R&B legend’s captivating finger wag and delicate hip twist — when he sang “Ruxanna” off his critically-acclaimed album “Hindi Man Blues,” and almost nailed the nasal twang on George Jones’s 1965 traditional region tune “Nothing at all Can Stop My Loving You.”

He dug deep in the blues vault for “Sonny Boy” Williamson’s late 1930s harmonica-blazing “Early in the Early morning” (aka “Bout the Crack of Working day”) in advance of glimpsing the genre’s upcoming with his most recent initial single, “Zindagi” (pronounced zin-duh-gee). 

With each and every song he sang, no matter whether in Hindi or English, the crowd on the dance ground swelled and a sea of mostly more mature individuals tried out to continue to keep time and rhythm to Kumar’s electrical power. 

That’s another common new music truth Kumar taught us: If songs moves you — go.

Tucson blues artists Heather Hardy & The Dusty City Blues Band opened the present, which highlighted Hardy’s amazing blues vocals and uncanny chops on electrical violin. At periods her violin sounded like Kumar’s harmonica and other periods took on the sonic flare of a saxophone.

Hardy and the band are established to enjoy Hotel Congress’s Cookout display on the plaza stage Aug. 28. For tickets and details take a look at

Get hold of reporter Cathalena E. Burch at On Twitter @Starburch


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