Bhi Bhiman is a musician's musician with lots to say about his hysterical music video with Keegan Key for his song "Moving To Brussels" riffing on "Whiplash." Who else can get away with saying "You're the wrong kind of brown because you clearly have no rhythm."
On a serious note he has a lot to say about race and growing up in the Midwest.
It is your time to go down, and I hope you have found all the things that you need They call me death as in die, honey, that ain't no lie got to harvest the green - My parents never really listened to music. It was always like talk radio all the time. I started listening to music at a young age, my older brother was influential. He was into music before I was, and you know, I remember he got his first CD was like a Pearl Jam CD at like ten. And I was like, I hated it I think, and he loved it. But he was always, I always looked up to him. So, he had a guitar sitting around the house, he never played it. It was like a classical guitar, so I ended up picking it up trying to do Chuck Berry moves and stuff like that. And I still don't know how to do that to this day. It's pretty hard. But I've always loved music and playing guitar. It was one of the only things I was really good at. I ended up just picking up the guitar. Just sleeping with a guitar basically I guess you could say, and like having it around all the time. I was, I just liked to shred when I was growing up. I didn't really, I wasn't interested in singing, I wasn't interested in writing, that only came when I was like 20 years old, and that was with the encouragement of my friends who, you know, I was a copy cat for a long time. I would copy all of my favorite artists but I was never like individual, I wasn't myself you know, I was just always copying somebody. And then my friends encouraged me to try it out and I probably failed miserably, but that's how everything starts. Yeah people hate on my style, no judge no jury no trial I'm the grim meter maid yeah Well how I craft my songs are intentional. Sometimes I want a social issue to come out, but I don't want to ram my idea down people's throats. That's like a huge turn off for me, I just don't like that. So I try to write a story where it's a first person story about a character who's in a situation where their life is affected by a social issue or politics. I try to entertain first and foremost and if they learn something, great, but really it just has to be entertaining. There goes the neighborhood Yeah the new record is called Rhythm and Reason and it's personal to me. It has a lot to do with immigration, and xenophobia and you know, cultures clashing. Something I grew up with a little bit. Nothing crazy, but in this country, and in Europe right now. It's just the topic at the forefront of everybody's minds, is immigration, the refugee crisis over there, but there's a lot of hatred I would say. There's a lot of fear and hatred of people, and I wanted to address that in my album a little bit because I have a perspective that is somewhat unique you might say. The events in Ferguson and around the country, but in Ferguson especially, did not surprise me. Growing up, everything was very divided. Money, the financial woes of black people in St. Louis is very clear and you learn that at an early age. And the neglect of the city towards the black residences was apparent as well. So when that happened, it really didn't surprise me at all. And it's important to me, it's very important. I think people should treat each other as you would your neighbor, and you know, you should welcome everybody with open arms no matter who they are. - It's ok, stay there. You know who I am? - Yes sir. - And do you know why I'm here? - Yes. - Moving to Brussels, which is a lead single off of my record Rhythm and Reason, and I did a music video with Keegan-Michael Key for that one. So, I had an idea for the video, and it was like kind of bad in retrospect, but about five days before we got to the studio to film it, I saw the movie Whiplash and it just clicked. I was like, he should do that, that would be perfect. Because I thought that movie was ridiculous. I thought it was like a horror movie for musicians basically, like a total horror movie. And I was just like, I thought he could just nail it in his sleep which he did. He's just, he's awesome. - Show me your rudiments. Stop. Don't just play a blues riff. Okay? Van Halen. Stop. AC/DC. Stop. Something from Chuck Berry. Chuck Berry. Stop. Something else from Chuck Berry. Everybody knows how to play that. - That's all he does- - Stop, it's impossible. It's a trick question. - He's my best friend in the whole world. No, that's a lie. We're friends. I met him on a show in St. Paul Minnesota. It's like a radio show in front of a live audience. They have a comedian and musician each week, and I just happened to get paired up with him. I think he actually like, chose me out of like, five people that could've been on the show and he just, I think he said, his exact words were, Bhi Bhiman is the truth. And I was like, okay. Cool. I'll take that. And I didn't know if the guy was BS-ing me because he didn't tell me that directly. We became friends and I just kind of harassed him until he did the music video because he's so busy. He doesn't need to be doing music videos. He's doing feature films, he's doing television, he's doing, you know, guesting in other people's films. So, I luckily got him for a few hours on a Saturday morning in LA. I'm moving to Brussels, I'm moving to Spain. I'm moving to Harlem, it's all the same I had a lesser role. I was just trying to hold my own. I can BS with some of the best of them, I mean, I've been BS-ing with you guys all day here, since I got here. Yeah, you've noticed? Yeah. So, I'm okay at that. So, that wasn't that hard, it was a lot of fun and I realized how lucky I was to get in front of him. The keys are on the table, I decided. I'm moving to Bruss- - Stop. Not quite my tempo. Go. - I'm moving to - - Stop it. Go. - I'm moving to - - No. That's what I'm looking for. Go. - I'm moving to Bru- - Stop it. No because not, that's what happened there you Cosby'd it. Don't Cosby it. Go. - I'm - - Wrong! Go! - I'm - - Horrible! You're the wrong kind of brown because you clearly have no rhythm. Go! I'm moving to Brussels I'm moving to Spain Hello. This is Bhi. Hi, this is Bhi Bhiman, you're watching Baeble Music.
Bhi Bhiman is an American original, and yet he seems transported from an era when songs were more important than the pretty faces that delivered them. His rich, bellowing tenor can soothe or explode at a moment's notice. His lived-in, knowing delivery belies his years. His songwriting, too, is quick to captivate. Bhi's mix of humor and deep empathy puts him in the company of distinguished (and much older) lifelong songsmiths like John Prine, Nick Lowe and Randy Newman. And Bhiman's technical, emotive guitar playing rises to the challenge that his striking voice presents.
It's fitting, then, that there truly isas far as anyone can tellonly one Bhi Bhiman. His parents, emigrants from Sri Lanka, named the songwriter after Bhima, a central character in an ancient Indian text called The Mahabharata. But Bhiman's own American experience was markedly less exotic than his name would implyhe came of age in the '90s in St. Louis, reared on Soundgarden and Nirvana, and later relocated to the Bay Area, where he lives today. Bob Dylan and Stevie Wonder may have first inspired him to write songs, but Bhiman's approachcomical, curious, whip-smartremains wholly unique. As a songwriter, Bhi consistently exceeds the expectations that should rightly rest on the shoulders of a well-adjusted twenty-something: He can inhabit any number of disparate characters and make them his own.
On his forthcoming disc, BHIMAN, he sings from the perspective of a North Korean prisoner ("Kimchee Line"); a happy-go-lucky redneck ("Ballerina"); a railroad-riding hobo ("Guttersnipe"); a jealous lover ("Eye on You") and a hopeful retiree ("Take What I'm Given), among other characters. The wide stylistic range Bhiman coverswithout losing the cohesiveness of his soundis just as impressive: "Guttersnipe" is a sprawling, nearly seven-minute epic folk testimonial with a deep empathy for the downtrodden; "Mexican Wine" is an instrumental that sounds like Simon & Garfunkel jamming in West Africa; "Crime of Passion" is buoyant murder balladas unlikely as that seems. Through every deviation of style, Bhiman's love of wordplay and that jaw-dropping voice carry the listener through to a new track and a compelling new story.
Of course, it helps Bhiman's fine songs to have expert help in crafting his sound. While some of the more minimal tracks on BHIMAN were recorded by the artist on his laptop, the bulk of the disc was tracked at John Vanderslice's famed Tiny Telephone studios by engineer Jay Pellicci and produced by Sam Kassirer (Josh Ritter, Langhorne Slim), who also contributes instrumentation the album. Together, they have created a deep, layered record that is urgent enough to grab listeners at first listen and deep enough to keep them coming back to hear the subtle, soulful shifts in both instrumentation and that powerful human voice. BHIMAN is Bhi's first truly great album, but one gets the impression that he'll be singing his stories for a very long time to come.