Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Rafiq Bhatia: Everything at Once

A guitarist finds focus and consciousness in his diverse influences

Rafiq Bhatia

Standing in front of a nearly vacant room at Mercury Lounge on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, the first of seven acts at a CMJ Music Marathon showcase that night, the guitarist Rafiq Bhatia ended his performance as he’d begun it: with an ambient loop of falling rain that gave way to the introduction of a theme, then a buildup of timbres and slicing swaths of rhythm.

The bookends implied something, just like the immersive music that came between them: Bhatia was offering a complete portrait of himself-and that meant going in a lot of different directions. He describes himself as “a listener first, a composer second and an instrumentalist third.” It’s not just a ploy at audience engagement. Innovation is only the sum of one’s influences, and he recognizes that this law carries an added weight nowadays: Catholic listening habits have become almost a baseline requirement for musicians, since the music you’re exposed to in the Internet age is hardly constrained.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published