Bhi Bhiman’s baritone has been described as “full-bodied and brawny but delicate” (the New York Times), and his original songs “fulfilling, evocative and tender in all the right spots” (Paste).
The young singer-songwriter of Sri Lankan descent calls San Francisco home, and that is where he chose to debut his new album, “Bhiman,” at a listening party at San Francisco’s Bottom of the Hill Feb. 18.
His powerful voice, which has a wide vibrato and low range, recalls Richie Havens; while his songs have been compared to compositions by Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and Randy Newman.
His songs have titles such as “Guttersnipe,” “White Man’s Burden Blues” and “Jaffna Town,” and address struggles and injustice — his parents are Sri Lankan Tamils, who emigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s.
A New York Times review describes his songs as “socially astute and a little wry, and delivered with the panache of old standards, a mélange of 1920s blues, 1960s folk and 1970s soft rock.” The Washington Post calls his music “wry and subversive.”
“I’m starting to get labeled as ‘The Sri Lankan Woody Guthrie,’” Bhiman quipped in a recent interview with the Huffington Post.
“Mainly I like to sing a good song instead of just singing nothing,” he said. “That’s the reason I’d never go on ‘American Idol.’ I’d never just want to go sing some crap that someone tells me to sing that I don’t feel. I can’t make anything sound good; I have to believe it first.”