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The Second-Generation Soul Of Zeshan Bagewadi

Zeshan Bagewadi's new album combines American funk and soul with Punjabi lyrics.
Courtesy of the artist
Zeshan Bagewadi's new album combines American funk and soul with Punjabi lyrics.

Zeshan Bagewadi's new album, Vetted, sounds a lot like classic American funk and soul from the 1960s and '70s. The difference? He sometimes sings in Punjabi. Bagewadi was born in Chicago to parents who were Indian Muslim immigrants, and he learned about soul, funk and blues from his father's music collection.

"Through his work as a journalist, [my father] covered concerts," Bagewadi explains to NPR's Scott Simon. "He also did profiles on certain movements here in America — literary movements, and did some work on the civil rights movement as well. And that very much informed his taste in music and aesthetics and style.

"My father was enamored of the music that he grew up around in 1960s, 1970s India, and the music of Pakistan. But in addition to that, through his work as a journalist he was given insight into soul music here in America, and he had a collection of records of Otis Redding, of James Brown, Marvin Gaye. ... And I guess the byproduct of that is me," he says.

For Bagewadi, soul isn't just a specific genre — it's a feeling that pervades American and Indo-Pakistani music alike.

"There is soul music of India-Pakistan; it speaks of urban despair, of poverty, of unrequited love, of being down and out," he says. "And that was the plight of my parents, that was the plight of my grandparents. That's why they've decided to come here in search of something better. That zeitgeist is present in the music. And we know how to get down, we've got soul. We've got soul — it's in our food, it's in our music — and I feel very lucky to be a part of that."

Hear the rest of Bagewadi's conversation with NPR's Scott Simon at the audio link.

Web intern Jake Witz and web editor Rachel Horn contributed to this story.

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Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Two-time Peabody Award-winner Peter Breslow is a senior producer for NPR's newsmagazine Weekend Edition. He has been with the program since 1992. Prior to that, he was a producer for NPR's All Things Considered.