The term “Asian American” talks about the interaction of two sets of ideas, customs, and traditions, Asian and American. To me, one of the most fascinating instances of this are when two ordinarily distinct notions of Asian and American get mashed up together into something unique, like spam musubi or Korean Taco trucks. Food isn’t the only area where happens – KQED published this story about how an Indian American musician blends Chicago style Blues with Bollywood. Aki Kumar, who came to Silicon Valley to make his fortune as a software engineer, developed a love for the Blues, and began applying that style to the classic Bollywood songs of his youth.
Aki Kumar strove to become a competent blues musician on its own. I think that important to first to honor the music and tradition before doing something else with it, and his first album in 2014, Don’t Hold Back, is a straight ahead blues album. This year, he released an album combining the musical traditions that he loved called Aki goes to Bollywood.
You can compare his version above of Eena Meeka Deeka with a popular version of the song. In some ways, it doesn’t seem that hard to convert this particular song, as it definitely has a big band era influence, with some saying is reminiscent of Cab Calloway.
Aki Kumar is another example of how an Asian American started with a tech focus and began branching out into different areas. Makes me wish that I had kept up with music after all these years. If you like the above blend, another you might like this one of salsa and Indian music. Aki Kumar hosts a regular jam session every Thursday at Little Lou’s BBQ in Campbell every Thursday.