(September 21, 2021) Reputed world-class percussionist, Rashmi Bhatt is an amalgamation of many different strands that make us who we are in an all-encompassing way. He is an art director of international music festivals, an actor, and a performer. A famous percussionist in Europe, Bhatt has been creating waves in the music fraternity with his collaborations with global music artistes such as Kenyan singer Ayub Okad, English singer Sting, and German trumpet player Marcus Stockhausen.
A man of many hats, Bhatt has also acted in a few popular Italian soap operas alongside Kabir Bedi and also collaborated with Oscar winning director Bernardo Bertolucci for a short film. As he continues to juggle his many avatars, this Gujarat-born artiste and Cultural Ambassador of India in Italy in an exclusive interview with Global Indian, says that he is now a transformed citizen of the world.
Rooted in Indian culture
Born in Gujarat, Bhatt spent his growing up years in Pondicherry studying at Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education where the seeds of Indian culture were sown deep into the youngster. The experimental nature of Auroville fosters creativity in every sphere of life, and encourages a multitude of artistic expressions. Here, the artistic and cultural life is so intense that one has always a large choice for music, art and culture. That is precisely what drove Bhatt to pursue the art of Tabla under the tutelage of Sri Torun Banerjee.
After completing his Masters in French Literature, Bhatt won a prestigious scholarship to study Italian Art History in Florence. Following this, he did his Doctorate in the same subject and eventually settled down in Italy.
Having spent the last three decades in Italy, he says, “I am now a transformed citizen of the World while my cultural roots continue to be deeply buried in India. From Indian classical music I have transitioned to World Music collaborating and experimenting fusion between different ethnic groups and their musical languages. Music everywhere is believed to affect our emotions, to involve some kind of arousal. Music is a language that is universal and can evoke many nuanced emotions.”
A global music artiste
Bhatt is now one of Europe’s most famous percussionists and has successfully collaborated with several global music artistes. From Kenyan singer Ayub Okad, German trumpet player Marcus Stockhausen to Canadian music producer and guitarist Michael Brook, and also Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Bhatt has performed alongside them all. He has also been on tours with Colombian singer and songwriter Shakira and English musician and actor Sting.
Apart from being a percussionist, composer and art director of international festivals, Bhatt is also an actor. He has acted in several Italian soap operas with Kabir Bedi apart from his collaboration with Bernardo Bertolucci.
The cultural ambassador
It has been quite an illuminating experience for him to be able to integrate in the country of his choice with roots established in India. For his outstanding contribution to world music the Indian Embassy in Italy conferred on him the title of Cultural Ambassador of India. He was requested to be the representative of the cultural wing of the Embassy. The Ministry of External Affairs had started the Pravasi Bhartiya Divas to connect India to its vast overseas diaspora and bring their knowledge, expertise and skills on a common platform. Bhatt was invited twice as a part of the delegation.
Bhatt now spends lot of his time devoted to WOMEX, mecca of the global music scene bringing together a spectrum of artistes. He promotes the diverse performing arts of South East Asia, and now ventures out to discover the beauty of other rich musical traditions, like the Arab, Persian, the Brazilian, West African, Jazz, and Pop. He has also collaborated with several artistes from India, Iran, Vietnam, China, Japan, Korea in concerts with masters such as Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Zakir Hussain, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Pandit Kamalesh Mitra, Debiprasad Ghosh, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pandit Arvind Parikh, Ustad Mohammad Iqbal, and Majid Derakhshani.
Bhatt’s music has led him to perform across several countries such as France, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, Italy, Dubai, Morocco, and Tunisia. The aritste is fascinated by the possibility of experimentation and fusion between different ethnic groups and their musical languages.
Spreading the knowledge
In November 2021 Bhatt has been invited by the University of Calgary, Canada, for a lecture on History of Indian Music and a Workshop on Structures of Indian Scales and Rhythms with Tabla and Sitar. He will also be talking about Dante, the medieval Bard and his influence on Indian poets and writers.
Talking about how the world of art and music was affected by the pandemic, he says, “The pandemic was and is obviously bad for all of us but it brings out the good too especially if you try to look at the brighter side of things. The world of music has transformed due to the pandemic. The thoughts of artistes have transformed.” However, this musician who divides his time between Rome, Italy and Pondicherry says, that in the long-term the core value chain of the music and art industry is likely to remain largely unchanged.
Music, dance, and art have given the world a sense of self-awareness, community, identity and solidarity. “We, the people of the world, have a song for every occasion. Flipping through the pages of world history, one finds that music and disease have always been joined at the hip. We will come out of this maze. Just hang in there,” he signs off.