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The son of Sri Lankan immigrants, one-of-a-kind folksinger and songwriter Bhi Bhiman (he was named after a character in the Mahabharata) spent his childhood in St. Louis, Missouri, and began playing guitar when he was nine years old. As a teen he fell under the influence of bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains, but as he began to write his own songs, full of joyous wordplay and sharp humor, he began to sound more like Bob Dylan or Woody Guthrie, and he developed an utterly unique, Americana-fueled style that turned on his remarkable, Nina Simone-like voice. Relocating to the Bay Area, Bhiman began to establish himself on the local circuit, and released an album, Cookbook, in 2007. His songwriting style, which ranged from political to personal, continued to evolve, and his second album, simply called Bhiman and released early in 2012, marked the arrival of an artist fully formed and drew comparison to songwriters like Randy Newman, Dylan, John Prine, and Phil Ochs, although his sharp observations, puns, characters, and approach were wonderfully his own.
Bhi Bhiman is a first-generation Sri Lankan-American folk-rock recording artist whose voice and songwriting have been favorably compared to Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen. His first album, Cookbook, came out in 2008. His second album, Bhiman, was released in January 2012.Robert Christgau (January 24, 2012). "Bhi Bhiman: Penetrating Melodies, Striking Vocals". All Things Considered (National Public Radio). Retrieved January 25, 2012. "Bio". Shore Fire. 1997-02-26. Retrieved 2012-01-25. Bill Friskics-Warren (January 23, 2012). "Bhi Bhiman displays mordant humor in ‘Bhiman’". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 25, 2012. Arts and Culture (December 11, 2011). "Bhi Bhiman | San Francisco Bay Area News - Crosscurrents from KALW". Kalwnews.org. Retrieved January 25, 2012. "Bhi Bhiman's Cross-Cultural Folk Music Creating Local Following | San Jose Beez". Sjbeez.org. November 19, 2010. Retrieved January 25, 2012. "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.
Bhi Ramesvara Bhiman was born and raised in St. Louis, MO. Bhiman has an older brother, Arj Ramesvara Arjunan. In the Hindu epic Mahabarata, Bhima and Arjuna are two of the Pandava brothers, known for their strength and unmatched warrior skills.
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". He played in the city's most competitive leagues from ages 7–17, often traveling for tournaments including trips to The Dominican Republic, Hawaii, and Australia.
When Bhiman was 13, an injury during a 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. As a teenager, Bhiman played electric guitar, and fell in love with hard rock bands like ACDC and Black Sabbath as well as Seattle's grunge scene. He has cited Soundgarden's Kim Thayil (who is Indian-American) as a particularly important musical influence.Roy Kasten (Mar 20, 2012). "Talking St. Louis, Baseball, Country Blues and Crooning With Bhi Bhiman". Riverfront Times. St. Louis, MO. Retrieved January 10, 2013. Thomas Conner (January 27, 2012). "Music review: Bhi Bhiman, 'Bhiman'". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved January 10, 2013. Cutter Mitchell (February 18, 2012). "A Peak Behind the Artistic Curtain with Bhi Bhiman". Be Cool. Be Positive. Retrieved January 10, 2013. DJ Drrrty Poonjabi (April 1, 2012). "Let it Bhi (Part II)". Speia Mutiny. Retrieved January 10, 2013.
It was not until Bhiman's time at the University of California Santa Cruz that he began to explore singing and writing songs. He formed the band Hippie Grenade in 2002 and eventually moved to San Francisco with the band to pursue music more seriously.
In 2008, Bhiman left Hippie Grenade to focus on his solo career. 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. Following those sessions, Bhiman finished the album with producer Sam Kassirer (Josh Ritter, Langhorn Slim) at the Great North Sound Society in Parsonsfield, Maine. Bhiman was released in 2012 and earned rave reviews from publications like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and esteemed rock critic Robert Christgau of NPR's All Things Considered.
Bhiman is currently working on a covers EP that will be released in early 2013.Rae Alexandra (Feb 15, 2012). "Finding worldly humor and compassion in the songs of S.F.'s Bhi Bhiman". SF Weekly. Retrieved January 10, 2013. Chris Bell (April 4, 2012). "Bhi Bhiman – Bhiman Review". Earbuddy. Retrieved January 10, 2013. Cite error: The named reference RFT_March_2012 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Jon Caramanica (February 3, 2012). "Genre or Post-Genre, It’s a Singer’s World". The New York Times. Retrieved January 10, 2013. Cite error: The named reference WP_2012-01-23 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Cite error: The named reference Christgau was invoked but never defined (see the help page). "Episode 6: Antibalas, IROK, Bhi Bhiman". John Kennedy's Xposure Podcast. December 12, 2012. Retrieved January 10, 2013.