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Immersive multimedia concert planned for Peristyle Stage

Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo Art Museum, Toledo Museum
Rafiq Bhatia image by Zenith Richards. Bhatia's concert performance of "Breaking English" will take place on Saturday, March 9 at 8 p.m., in the Peristyle.

Transcending the normal concert experience, Rafiq Bhatia will perform Breaking English, an immersive multimedia experience on the Toledo Museum of Art’s (TMA) Peristyle stage Saturday, March 9 at 8 p.m. Tickets for the event are still available. The cost is $20 for Museum members, $25 for nonmembers, and $15 for students and military.

Opening the evening concert is special guest WILLS, who weaves multiple genres for a unique, soulful sound, and will share songs from his soon-to-be-released album, The New Old. 

In a move that underscores the Museum’s legacy as a creative catalyst across genres, TMA is co-commissioning Bhatia’s current multimedia U.S. tour in support of his 2018 release Breaking English. The other commissioning venues of the tour are The Jazz Gallery in New York, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music Series in Minnesota, and Newfields: A Place for Nature and the Arts in Indianapolis.

“Bhatia is known for his improvisational, multisensory soundscapes,” said Scott Boberg, TMA’s manager of programs. “This performance will be an immersive visual and sonic experience that brings together indie style, sound art, jazz, and electronica.”

A first-generation American son of Muslim immigrants who trace their ancestry to India by way of East Africa, 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 them. He became obsessed with the guitar in high school, compelled by the full-throated, activist approaches of musicians 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. In addition to his solo work, he is a member of the American experimental band Son Lux and collaborates with numerous artists, including Sufjan Stevens and Lorde. 

“At times I use electronic processing to destabilize, twisting stereotypes of Indian music into noise beyond recognition,” Bhatia explains. “But elsewhere, I use it to magnify otherwise indecipherable traces of human action; the smallest of breaths or movements that would ordinarily be scrubbed clean. This fragility of personhood is juxtaposed against the denial of that humanity — actions abruptly truncated, breaths cut short.”

Otherworldly yet organic, the visual elements of the performance mine Michael Cina’s ongoing investigation of many of the same continuums that guide Bhatia’s music: beauty and power, intimacy and instability, struggle and process. The project deepens the collaborative relationship between Bhatia and Cina, dating back to album covers of Bhatia’s prior releases while beginning an association between Cina and Hal Lovemelt, both of whom are Minneapolis-based.

Utilizing cutting-edge techniques and technologies that he himself has developed, Lovemelt translates Cina’s painting into malleable, responsive video content. The resulting performance is a collaborative exploration of the outer limits within each of the artists’ respective mediums.

For tickets and more information, visit toledomuseum.org. This performance is supported in part by the Dorothy MacKenzie Price Fund and Hartmann & Associates.