PRO-PORTRAIT: Bhi Bhiman is an American original

Bhi Bhiman is an American original—raised in the Midwest by emigrant parents from Sri Lanka, this songwriter, singer, and most decidedly powerful guitar player is crafting his own musical path. His music springs from his character—curious, humor-filled, whip-smart, with a love of word play.

For example, on his latest record, 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.

Bhi’s musical path began when he was seven years old as he picked up his first guitar. His brother had been taking guitar lessons but had lost interest, so the instrument was left laying around. Bhi literally picked up his brother’s guitar. He started with thumb picking and now has crafted a career around music.

Known as a bellowing tenor singer with a wide stylistic range, Bhi is most proud of his technical, emotive guitar playing which was influenced by all kinds of American guitar styles. He’s been playing for 22 years and uses the guitar to take charge of the rhythm as he sings solo on stage. “A lot of my stuff I play solo onstage and if I didn’t have a steady rhythm hand, I wouldn’t be able to pull off the singing. People like my voice, but my guitar playing is what I’m most proud of.”

Bhi began singing only about ten years ago. He’d sing in his car with the windows rolled up, and under his breath while playing guitar. After three years of what he calls “messing around, just stretching out the vocal chords, and building up some muscle memory,” he began to move his voice up front. “It wouldn’t have happened without the guitar. I’m not the person to feel too comfortable being up on stage just singing. I generally like to have a guitar. Be in charge of the rhythm as well.”

He’s currently on tour, bouncing from St, Paul, to New York City, Boston, Chapel Hill, Atlanta, Nashville, St. Louis, Madison, Chicago, and on and on. “It’ just pretty epic. It’s a mixture of being creative and being exhausted.”

You can learn more about Bhi and his music at his website.

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