SHORT BIO Aki Kumar left his native home in Mumbai, India for the United States with the intention of working as a software engineer. Then he discovered the sounds of the blues, and his life changed dramatically.
One of the hardest working artists on the music scene today, this San Jose-based musician has successfully blended 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 the inspiration it draws from the blues. He has made multiple appearances at The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, has been featured on PRI “The World,” and has toured in Russia, Scandinavia and South America.
Kumar's Little Village Foundation releases Aki Goes To Bollywood (2016) and Hindi Man Blues (2018) are considered ground-breaking albums that have garnered international critical acclaim. In 2020, Kumar made major news with the world-wide launch of his album Dilruba on Sony Music India. Kumar kicked off 2021 with the release of an uplifting reggae-infused single "Zindagi" (Life).
DETAILED BIO Aki Kumar 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 songs 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 approach to music 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-inspired foundation.
That unique blend of East and West reached a new creative high on Aki’s second Little Village Foundation album, Hindi Man Blues, which boasts an ambitious cross-cultural fusion and features liner notes by veteran blues harmonica great Charlie Musselwhite. “My first album was really about my identity,” the artist states. “Now I feel it is time to be more direct about what’s happening out there in the world. The blues scene is my home, and the scene can be pretty conservative, but I want people to know where I stand. There’s a good amount of focus on Bollywood classics on the new album, and I even throw in a song about President Trump called ‘All Bark No Bite.’
In 2020, Kumar made major news with the world-wide launch of his album Dilruba on Sony Music India. Dilruba is an Indian Pop record that showcases his signature sound on a number Hindi/bilingual originals and covers. In 2021, he released an uplifting reggae-inspired single Zindagi under the Little Village Foundation label.
Kumar’s visionary stylistic mix, called Bollywood Blues, has already won him widespread attention. In addition to the local live music 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 toured in India, Russia, Scandinavia and South America. Now, after spending more than a decade developing his sound with the help of some of the Bay Area’s finest musicians, Aki Kumar continues to take his love for the blues to new and fascinating place.
"...defies labels and language barriers"- Tucson.com
"...breathtaking..."- Living Blues Magazine
"a must know artist!" - DissDash.com
"We like!" - SoundBox India
"joyfully innocent, energetic, enthusiastic..." - Bandook.com
"Check it out. I wouldn't steer you wrong."
- Charlie Musselwhite
"Really really really hot stuff!"
- Elwood Blues aka Dan Aykroyd
"FOUR STARS...the integrity of his music marks
the difference between novelty and substance"
- Downbeat Magazine
"Kumar is on the cutting-edge of blues today."
- Michael Kinsman, San Diego Blues Festival
"...leaps off that bridge into the unknown, and I love the heck out of it"
- Jim Washburn / OCWeekly.com
Swing Wespelaar, Belgium 2022
Den Blaa Festival, Denmark 2022
San Francisco Jazz Festival 2022
San Jose Jazz Festival 2022, 2019, 2016
The Bridges Festival, St. Petersburg 2019
Augusti Bluus, Estonia 2019
Gator By The Bay, San Diego 2019
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, San Francisco 2016, 2018
Live Oak Music Festival, Santa Barbara 2018
Mississippi Delta Blues Festival, Brazil 2018
San Jose Fountain Blues Festival 2017
Portland Waterfront Blues Festival 2016, 2018