A short set from Bhiman gave a taste of his witty and satirical folk songs.
Bhi Bhiman (pronounced Bee Bee-man) took the stage at the newly renovated Joe's Pub just after 7 pm as part of a showcase with two other artists, The Parkington Sisters and David Wax Museum, in conjunction with the Association of Performing Arts (APAP) Conference going on in New York City. While a twenty minute limit gave him only time for four songs, Bhiman took full advantage of the time introducing the songs for the audience and connecting them to his forthcoming release Bhiman. A previous album, The Cookbook, the singer/songwriter's debut a few years back, dealt with political themes, like colonialism, which continue to inform his new work.
Bhiman opened with "Kimchee Line" a satirical working-man's (forced labor seems more likely) song that is sometimes silly (the lyrics include the line "its cucumber time" with variations on the vegetable). He followed up with "Equal in my Tea" his take on a love song and "one of the first songs" he ever wrote. Unsurprisingly, it also ended up including some social commentary, moving away from a story about meeting a woman who became "his future wife" and "who gave his daughter life" to being drafted into the Army and about a "limey wanker" who spoke of the fall of an empire.
Following the third song "Guttersnipe", the lead single from Bhiman, the witty lyrics must have been apparent by this point. But if Bhiman's political bent wasn't clear to the audience, it emerged vividly with the final song. As he introduced "Freedom Highway", his favorite Staple Singers' track, Bhiman opined "Pops and Mavis are better than Robert Plant and Jimmy Page". While that may be debatable for some (especially with controversy over the credits on some of their songs), the track itself is unequivocally about civil rights, with the lyrics "I can't understand my friend / Why some folk think freedom / was not designed for all men". Carefully thanking the crowd and fans, Bhiman walked off the stage to enthusiastic applause.
While Bhiman is performing solo acoustic shows around the US to support his album, his studio released tracks feature additional instrumentation including percussion and strings so they have a different feel. But when you catch him solo, you will get a showcase of Bhiman's vibrant voice and experience each tongue in cheek tale freshly picked from his bed of pearls.
Equal in my Tea
Freedom Highway (The Staple Singers)
Grab the free track "Kimchee Line" below: