Zeshan B

Born in Chicago to Indian Muslim immigrants, Zeshan Bagewadi was raised at the junction of two different worlds.

His parents’ nostalgic hankering for the sounds of their native land gave him a deep exposure to Indo-Pakistani music; film, folk and classical alike. However, his father--having been one of the few journalists in India to cover the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and 70s-- was immensely fond of Black artistic expression, and as such, Zeshan grew up with the sounds of his father’s blues, soul and r&b collection as well. Additionally, his mother--a social worker at the notorious Cook County Hospital on Chicago’s West Side--imbibed him with a sensitivity and awareness towards the plight of disenfranchised inner-city minorities.

Early on in his adolescence, Zeshan’s natural aptitude for music was discovered and to that end, while excelling in band, orchestra and choral programs, he felt most at home in being the lead soloist of his school’s gospel choir. He thus decided it best to pursue the study of music in college and his vocal talents earned him a full scholarship at Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music.

However, after matriculating through the conservatory and singing for several opera companies, Zeshan soon realized that classical music was just not his thing, as he felt trapped in a world of archaic traditions, outdated performance practices and a power structure that primarily catered to people of privilege and means. He decided to return to his roots.

And in doing so, he has created an entirely new, original genre of music that is his very own--Brown Skinned Soul. Blending the hard-driving grooves and horn heavy sounds of late 60s/ early 70s American soul with the angsty scats and vocal stylings of early Indo-Pakistani film/folk tunes, Zeshan’s live embodiment of brown skinned soul has garnered him sold out performances at the Apollo, Cobo Arena (Detroit), Excel London, Millennium Park (Chicago), Coke Studio’s Jaipur Literature Fest, as well as the privilege of opening for acts like Mos Def, A Tribe Called Quest, Rakim, Aasif Mandvi and Rev. Jesse Jackson.

A self-proclaimed patriot, in 2015, Zeshan opened for the Carter Foundation in Detroit with a performance of the US national anthem for which Former President Jimmy Carter emphatically stated, “I have never heard a more beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner than the one we just heard”. This acclaimed performance led to the ultimate honor for Zeshan--an invitation from President Obama to perform at the White House for the inaugural Eid celebration in 2016.

These accolades landed Zeshan a record deal with Chicago label Minty Fresh, and the label is slated to release his debut solo album in April of 2017. Produced by Lester Snell---the legendary arranger for Isaac Hayes, Al Green’s, Sam & Dave and Mavis Staples of Stax Records Fame--the album is a mixtape of Zeshan’s originals and lesser known 1960s and 70s deep soul gems. Recorded in Memphis with a wrecking crew of Stax Records’ original sidemen at Ardent Studios, Zeshan pours his heart out in 10 tracks and 3 languages-- English, Urdu and Punjabi. The album is a wide array of tempestuous soul arias, sentimental ballads, urban love dramas, Memphis blues, upbeat existentialism and last but certainly not least, a civil rights anthem. These selections are characterized by hard grooves, sumptuously delicate strings, riveting horns and with an idiomatically Indian feel-- replete with a blaring tanpura and harmonium.

Floating above it all are Zeshan’s powerfully mellifluous vocals as he narrates (through the prism of an immigrant) tales of instability, ambiguity, loss, injustice, unrequited love, urban despair and youthful ecstasy. Although Zeshan is no immigrant himself, he is privy to that narrative through his parents and his community and thus, he has seen and lived it firsthand.

And with with the way things are these days, it is a narrative that perhaps all of America needs to hear.

$12.00 - $15.00

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