In Print: Exploring Bhi Bhiman's Funny, Compassionate Folk Songs

Bhi Bhiman: It might surprise anyone who's heard his booming tenor of a voice, but San Francisco singer-songwriter Bhi Bhiman didn't always want to be a musician. His first chosen profession? Comedian. Which goes some way toward explaining the sharp humor in his lyrics.

“I tried to do [comedy], but playing guitar on stage is a lot easier for me than having nothing up there,” Bhi (pronounced “Bee”) Bhiman tells us over coffee in SOMA's Brickhouse cafe. “People always notice my vocals first, but I think guitar might be my strength. It's something I could do in my sleep, so having that as the foundation and singing over it is a lot easier than comedy. I just knew I wanted to be funny in some way.”

Despite the fact that there's a lot of serious social commentary on his latest album, Bhiman — stories from perspectives as diverse as a rail-riding hobo (“Guttersnipe”), a North Korean prisoner (“Kimchee Line”), and a cuckolded lover (“Crime of Passion”) — Bhi's songs do indeed have a stream of sly and dry humor running through their lyrics. Sometimes, as on “Kimchee Line,” it's all in the delivery. But the ode to white trash-dom “Ballerina” even goes so far as to parody Johnny Cash and June Carter's “Jackson,” with the opening line: “We got married in a Wal-Mart/ Down by the Wrangler jeans.” … [continue reading]

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