Title Track BREAKING ENGLISH Out Now
Rafiq Bhatia's new album’s title track is revealed to be a daydream of deconstructed soul, where skittering drums dodge explosions of white noise as a detuned choir gasps for air. Listen to “Breaking English” HERE.
Bhatia is the first-generation American son of Muslim immigrant parents who trace their ancestry to India by way of East Africa. Early influences such as Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane, and Madlib—as well as mentors and collaborators including Vijay Iyer and Billy Hart—prompted him to see music as a way to actively shape and represent his own identity, not limited by anyone else’s prescribed perspective.
“In 2008, my parents brought my sister and me to India so that we could see our ancestral home for the first time,” Bhatia explained. “We were driving towards the Taj Mahal, and noticed as we approached that there was an alarming number of signs advertising ‘Shooting Ranges.’ We grew increasingly curious and concerned about why these signs, which were written in English, were so prevalent — could they be targeted towards American tourists and their obsession with guns? But eventually, we realized that ‘shooting’ was intended in the photographic sense. We had a good laugh about it, but then my dad turned to me quite seriously and asked, ‘Eventually, there will likely be more English speakers out here than there are in the West. At that point, who will get to decide what constitutes a proper use of English?’”
“’Breaking English’ is a ceremony of a song,” Bhatia continues. “Its central theme revealed itself to me in an improvised performance, fully formed, as though it had always existed. The cyclical form of the piece allows it to shed its skin and present itself anew in successive iterations, even as the core idea — or problem, or experience — stubbornly persists.”
This spring Bhatia will be performing tracks from Breaking English with Ian Chang of Son Lux on drums and Jackson Hill on bass. All upcoming US and European tour dates are listed below and on sale now, including their hometown album release show at Brooklyn’s National Sawdust on April 9.