Bhi Bhiman

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Bhi Bhiman
Bhi Bhiman @ Södra teatern, Stockholm, Sweden in 2013.jpg
Background information
Born American
Origin St. Louis, Missouri
Genres Folk-rock
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter
Instruments Acoustic guitar, electric guitar, vocals
Years active 2002–present
Labels Boocoo Music, Tummy Touch
Associated acts Rhiannon Giddens, John Dragonetti, Hippie Grenade, Soundgarden
Notable instruments

Bhi Bhiman is an American singer-songwriter.[1][2] After co-founding the rock band Hippie Grenade in 2002 in Santa Cruz, he later moved to San Francisco, where he released his debut solo album Cookbook in 2007.[3] His second album, Bhiman, was released in January 2012 to positive reviews.[4] It peaked at No. 28 on the Top Heatseekers chart[5] and No. 15 on the Billboard Folk Albums chart.[5] In 2012 Bhiman performed on Later... with Jools Holland,[6] and he was subsequently asked to open Chris Cornell's 2013 North American tour.[7] Bhiman participated in a tribute concert to Prince at Carnegie Hall in 2013, alongside artists such as Elvis Costello and D'Angelo.[8][9] His cover EP Substitute Preacher was released in 2013, with renditions of late 1970s to early 1980s hard rock hits.[10] His third solo album, Rhythm & Reason, was released in 2015[11][12] to positive reviews from publications such as American Songwriter,[13] Irish Times,[14] and The Guardian, with the latter opining that "he has a no-nonsense, gutsy vocal style and a batch of inventive songs" which "pair tuneful, sturdy, all-American melodies with often bleak and humorous lyrics."[15]

Early life and education[edit]

Bhi Ramesvara Bhiman was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri.[16] His parents are of Sri Lankan heritage. Both Bhiman and his older brother Arjunan are named for characters in the Mahabarata; Bhima and Arjuna are two of the Pandava warrior brothers.[17] Bhiman had an all-American childhood that he has referred to as "a sort of Brown Norman Rockwell existence with lots of running around in creeks and playing baseball".[18] He began playing guitar at age nine.[12]

When Bhiman was 13, an injury during a baseball tournament in Paducah, Kentucky kept him off the field for six months. He passed the time playing his brother's guitar and discovered a strong musical sensibility.[16] As a teenager, Bhiman played electric guitar, and fell in love with hard rock bands like AC/DC and Black Sabbath, as well as Seattle's grunge scene.[17] He attended the University of California Santa Cruz.[19]

Music career[edit]

Early years and Bhiman (2002-2012)[edit]

Bhiman formed the band Hippie Grenade in 2002[20] with Chris Thalmann and Steven Reilly while still attending school in Santa Cruz. With Bhiman as main songwriter and lyricist, after playing primarily at Santa Cruz house parties the band went through several lineup changes. Hippie Grenade later moved to San Francisco to pursue music as a career.[19] Bhiman's debut solo album Cookbook came out in December 2007 through Hinju Records,[11] and the following year he left Hippie Grenade to focus on his solo career.[21]

In 2011, he began work on what would be his first nationally distributed album. The bulk of the record was tracked at Tiny Telephone Studios in San Francisco.[22] Following those sessions, Bhiman finished the album with producer Sam Kassirer (Lake Street Dive, Josh Ritter) at the Great North Sound Society in Parsonsfield, Maine.[16] The album, entitled Bhiman, was released in 2012 and earned rave reviews from publications like The New York Times,[23] The Washington Post,[24] and rock critic Robert Christgau of NPR's All Things Considered.[1] Bhiman peaked at No. 28 on the Top Heatseekers chart during the second week of February in 2012.[5] It also peaked at No. 15 that same week on the Billboard Folk Albums chart.[5]

EP and touring (2013-2014)[edit]

In November 2012, Bhiman performed on Later... with Jools Holland on the BBC.[6] While on the show he met the band Soundgarden, and was subsequently asked to open Chris Cornell's 2013 North American tour. For the tour's seven weeks, Bhiman and Cornell performed the songs "Hunger Strike" by Temple of the Dog and Audioslave's "Like a Stone" together.[7] He participated in a tribute concert to Prince on March 8, 2013 at Carnegie Hall, alongside artists such as Elvis Costello and D'Angelo. He performed an acoustic version of "When Doves Cry",[8] with the rendition praised as a concert highlight by Rolling Stone[25] and Entertainment Weekly, with the latter writing that Bhiman "transformed “When Doves Cry” into a foreboding murder ballad. In spinning the song in a different direction, Bhiman made a song everybody knew backwards into a wholly new thing."[9]

After starting the project in 2012,[26] Bhiman's cover EP Substitute Preacher was self-released on May 14, 2013. The release included late 1970s to early 1980s hits by artists like Dire Straits, AC/DC and Dio.[10] The lead single, a version of "Walk of Life" by Dire Straits, was released on May 13, 2013 with a music video featuring footage of Buster Keaton.[27] Afterwards he toured in support of the album, and also continued to interact with Soundgarden. In 2014 the band invited Bhiman onstage to perform the song "Superunknown" with them at Shoreline Amphitheater.[28] He also developed a friendship with Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil, and a year later the two interviewed each other for the Talkhouse Podcast.[29]

Rhythm & Reason (2015)[edit]

External video
Bhi Bhiman feat. Rhiannon Giddens "Up in Arms" Music Video (July 6, 2015)

The lead single for his third full-length solo album, "Moving to Brussels", was released through Speakeasy on March 24, 2015.[30] According to Bhiman, the track had been written while on tour in Belgium with Rosanne Cash, and he described it as "an immigrant's story described as a love song."[31] He was interviewed on air by NPR about his upcoming album Rhythm & Reason on May 15, 2015,[32] with the album released through his own imprint BooCoo Music on May 18, 2015, in conjunction with the Thirty Tigers label.[30]

American Songwriter praised both the album's songwriting and the additions by producer and multi-instrumentalist Sam Kassirer,[13] and the album also received positive reviews from Irish Times[14] and The Guardian, which stated that "he has a no-nonsense, gutsy vocal style and a batch of inventive songs."[15] The album deals largely with the themes of "immigrants and xenophobia",[15] and the track "Up in Arms" featured vocalist multi-instrumentalist Rhiannon Giddens.[10] For the music video of "Moving to Brussels", Bhiman recruited actor and comedian Keegan-Michael Key of the Key & Peele show to join him in a parody of the movie Whiplash.[33] The two met while performing on the live radio show Wits, which is produced by Minnesota Public Radio.[6] He also appeared on Strangers Again, an album of duets by folk singer Judy Collins, singing Hallelujah.

Style and influences[edit]

According to The Guardian, Bhiman's songs "pair tuneful, sturdy, all-American melodies with often bleak and humorous lyrics."[15] Bhiman's voice and songwriting have been favorably compared to folk and country artists such as Nina Simone, Woody Guthrie,[24][34] Bill Withers, Randy Newman, and John Prine among others.[12] Bhiman has cited diverse artists and genres as influences on his sound, including folk and hard rock. He has cited guitarist and songwriter Kim Thayil as a particularly important musical influence.[35]


Solo albums[edit]

Full-length solo albums by Bhi Bhiman[11][12]
Year Album title Release details Chart peaks[5]
2007 Cookbook
2012 Bhiman
  • Released: January 24, 2012
  • Label: Boocoo Music / Tummy Touch
  • Format: CD, digital download
28 15
2015 Rhythm & Reason
  • Released: May 18, 2015
  • Label: Boocoo Music / Thirty Tigers
  • Format: CD, digital, vinyl
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.


Albums by Bhi Bhiman[10]
Year Album title Release details
2013 Substitute Preacher - Covers EP
  • Released: May 14, 2013
  • Label: Self-released
  • Format: CD, digital download


Incomplete list of songs by Bhi Bhiman[11][12]
Year Title Album Release details
2015 "Up In Arms"
(feat. Rhiannon Giddens)
Rhythm & Reason BooCoo Records (July 6, 2015)[36]
"Moving to Brussels (Sub Commander Remix)"
(ft. John Dragonetti)
Single only BooCoo Records (July 6, 2015)[36]

Further reading[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (January 24, 2012). "Bhi Bhiman: Penetrating Melodies, Striking Vocals". All Things Considered. National Public Radio. Retrieved January 25, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Bio". Shore Fire. 1997-02-26. Retrieved 2012-01-25. 
  3. ^ "Bhi Bhiman's Cross-Cultural Folk Music Creating Local Following | San Jose Beez". November 19, 2010. Retrieved January 25, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Bhi Bhiman, SF's Most Exciting New Songwriter, Talks American Idol And The Perils Of Being The Sri Lankan Woody Guthrie (VIDEOS)". Huffington Post. February 17, 2012. Retrieved February 17, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c d e "Bhi Bhiman Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 2015-10-05. 
  6. ^ a b c "Episode 65: Keegan-Michael Key with Bhi Bhiman (Part One)". Wits. American Public Media Presents. Retrieved 2015-10-05. 
  7. ^ a b "Chris Cornell + Bhi Bhiman @ Orpheum Theatre – October 23rd 2013". ConcertAddicts. October 23, 2013. Retrieved 2015-10-05. 
  8. ^ a b Asward, Jem (March 8, 2013). "Prince Gets Royal Treatment at Carnegie Hall: D'Angelo, Elvis Costello, Bettye Lavette Light Up All-Star Tribute Concert". Billboard. Retrieved 2015-10-05. 
  9. ^ a b Anderson, Kyle (March 8, 2013). "D'Angelo, Elvis Costello, Chris Rock, the Roots pay tribute to Prince at Carnegie Hall". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2015-10-05. 
  10. ^ a b c d "Bhi Bhiman". iTunes. Retrieved 2015-10-05. 
  11. ^ a b c d "Bhi Bhiman Discography". Discogs. Retrieved 2015-07-06. 
  12. ^ a b c d e Leggett, Steve. "Bhi Bhiman Biography and Discography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2015-07-06. 
  13. ^ a b Horowitz, Hal (May 19, 2015). "Rhythm & Reason". American Songwriter. Retrieved 2015-10-05. 
  14. ^ a b Carroll, Jim (June 26, 2015). "Bhi Bhiman: Rhythm & Reason Album Review". Irish Times. Retrieved 2015-10-05. 
  15. ^ a b c d Denselow, Robin (May 28, 2015). "Bhi Bhiman: Rhythm & Reason review – Tamil-tinged Americana with guts and smarts". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015-10-05. 
  16. ^ a b c Kasten, Roy (Mar 20, 2012). "Talking St. Louis, Baseball, Country Blues and Crooning With Bhi Bhiman". Riverfront Times. St. Louis, MO. Retrieved January 10, 2013. 
  17. ^ a b Conner, Thomas (January 27, 2012). "Music review: Bhi Bhiman, 'Bhiman'". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on March 13, 2013. Retrieved January 10, 2013. 
  18. ^ Mitchell, Cutter (February 18, 2012). "A Peak Behind the Artistic Curtain with Bhi Bhiman". Be Cool. Be Positive. Retrieved January 10, 2013. 
  19. ^ a b "Hippie Grenade". SFStation. Retrieved 2015-10-05. 
  20. ^ Vigil, Delfin (September 26, 2007). "Bandwidth: Bhi Bhiman". SFGate. Retrieved 2015-10-05. 
  21. ^ Alexandra, Rae (Feb 15, 2012). "Finding worldly humor and compassion in the songs of S.F.'s Bhi Bhiman". SF Weekly. Retrieved January 10, 2013. 
  22. ^ Bell, Chris (April 4, 2012). "Bhi Bhiman – Bhiman Review". Earbuddy. Retrieved July 10, 2017. 
  23. ^ Caramanica, Jon (February 3, 2012). "Genre or Post-Genre, It’s a Singer’s World". The New York Times. Retrieved January 10, 2013. 
  24. ^ a b Bill Friskics-Warren (January 23, 2012). "Bhi Bhiman displays mordant humor in ‘Bhiman’". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 25, 2012. 
  25. ^ Rhys, Dan (March 7, 2013). "The Roots Steer Prince Tribute Warm-Up at City Winery in New York". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2015-10-05. 
  26. ^ "Episode 6: Antibalas, IROK, Bhi Bhiman". John Kennedy's Xposure Podcast. December 12, 2012. Retrieved January 10, 2013. 
  27. ^ "Bhi Bhiman - Walk of Life (Dire Straits Cover)". YouTube. May 13, 2013. Retrieved 2015-10-05. 
  28. ^ "Soundgarden feat. Bhi Bhiman, "Superunknown"". Youtube. Aug 25, 2014. Retrieved 2015-10-05. 
  29. ^ Coughlan, Jamie (July 10, 2015). "Kim Thayil Talks With Bhi Bhiman For The Talkhouse Podcast". Retrieved 2015-10-05. 
  30. ^ a b "Bhi Bhiman Sends Dictators a ‘Dear John’ Letter on ‘Moving to Brussels’ (Exclusive Song)". Wall Street Journal. March 24, 2015. Retrieved 2015-10-05. 
  31. ^ "Moving to Brussels". Facebook: Bhi Bhiman. Retrieved 2015-10-05. 
  32. ^ Simon, Scott (May 16, 2015). "In 'Rhythm,' Bhi Bhiman's Music Isn't Limited By National Borders". NPR. Retrieved 2015-10-05. 
  33. ^ "Bhi Bhiman feat. Keegan-Michael Key - Moving to Brussels". Youtube: Bhi Bhiman. May 17, 2015. Retrieved 2015-10-05. 
  34. ^ Arts and Culture (December 11, 2011). "Bhi Bhiman | San Francisco Bay Area News - Crosscurrents from KALW". Retrieved January 25, 2012. 
  35. ^ DJ Drrrty Poonjabi (April 1, 2012). "Let it Bhi (Part II)". Speia Mutiny. Retrieved January 10, 2013. 
  36. ^ a b "Bhi Bhiman Discography and Release Notes". Bandcamp. Retrieved 2015-10-05. 

External links[edit]