Aki Kumar's radio obsession led to blues life

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Blues harmonica star Aki Kumar has recalled how he was first transfixed by the genre as a teenager.

Born in Mumbai, India, Kumar moved to the US in 1998 at the age of 18. He soon fell in love with the blues and dedicated himself to mastering the harmonica.

He tells the LA Times: “Shortly after I moved out to the US, out of sheer boredom, I randomly tuned into a couple of oldies radio stations and found that I really enjoyed them.

“I fell in love with everything I heard – rock‘n’roll, blues, doo wop, basically everything from that era. That really did it. Once I delved a bit deeper, it was obvious that I had to explore Chicago and Delta blues to get to the source of this music.”

Living in San Francisco and working as a software engineer, Kumar kept chasing his musical dream.

He adds: “Around the same time, I found a very cool, underground blues scene in the Bay Area that featured some world-class musicians, especially blues harmonica players. Guys like Gary Smith, Mark Hummel, Andy Santana, Rick Estrin and David Barrett, who was my teacher for many years.

“I lead a double life, nine to five guy by day, musician by night for many years, until it became very difficult to sustain both. In the end, I decided to follow my heart and I’ve been fortunate to have enough work performing to not make it feel like a completely foolish career choice.”

Kumar released his debut album Don’t Hold Back in 2015.