Rafiq Bhatia
usa | Label: Anti Records

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Rafiq Bhatia’s music reconciles meticulous sound art with mercurial improvisation to deliver searing emotional intensity. The composer-guitarist’s first two albums – Strata and Yes It Will – have been described by the New York Times as “transcending real sound in real time with the unexpected,” and by the Washington Post as “approximat[ing] life in the information age …profuse, immersive and immense.”

In 2014, Bhatia and drummer Ian Chang joined founder Ryan Lott as members of Son Lux, expanding the former solo project into a trio. They have since been heralded as “the world’s most lethal band” by NPR, and described as “thrilling… an ideal synthesis of contemporary forms” by the Wall Street Journal. In the past few years, Son Lux have written, recorded, and released an LP, Bones, and have given over 300 performances in North America, Europe, and Asia.

Heralded as a “rising guitar star” (Time Out New York) and among “the most promising improvisers in the United States today” (New York Times), Bhatia has established himself as an omnivorous collaborator for singular, creative musicians across disciplines. He has worked with producers Olga Bell, Helado Negro, Prefuse 73, and Valgeir Sigurðsson; vocalists Sam Dew and Moses Sumney; emcees Heems (Das Racist) and High Priest (Anti-Pop Consortium); improvisers Vijay Iyer, Billy Hart, David Virelles, and Marcus Gilmore; members of the chamber ensembles Alarm Will Sound, ICE, and JACK; and numerous others. You can also hear him on recordings featuring pop revisionists Lorde and Sufjan Stevens, and on the soundtracks to the films The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, Mean Dreams, Air, and Afflicted.

A first generation American son of East African Indian immigrants, Bhatia was born and raised in North Carolina. His love of music began with two inspirations: his grandfather’s reedy, a capella renditions of Gujarati spirituals, and the gangster rap he was hearing on the radio. Coming of age in the South in the aftermath of 9/11, Bhatia noticed a conspicuous absence of people who looked like him in the arts, and started to see music as a way to represent. He became obsessed with the guitar in high school, compelled by the full-throated, activist approaches of Jimi Hendrix and John Coltrane. After graduating from Oberlin College with a degree in neuroscience and economics, Bhatia packed as many belongings as he could fit into a small car and drove to Brooklyn, where he continues to live and work today.