Delhi's 30-year-old Aman Bathla, the world's fastest piano player, takes us on a roller coaster ride of his musical journey
On December 4, 2014, when the audience sat back to watch pianist Aman Bathla in action at the Epicentre at Apparel House in Gurgaon, Haryana, little did they know that they would be witnessing history. Bent over the piano, hands rippling across the keys at lightning speed, Bathla played a dizzying 804 notes in one minute. The feat earned him the title of the fastest pianist of India and a place in the India Book of Records. And, in the same sweep, he also shattered the record of then fastest pianist in the world, Bence Peter (Hungary), whose 765 notes in a minute did not match Bathla’s dexterity.
Not without my piano
It has been two years, and the count of world records have gone up to five, but for the 30-year-old, he’s still just a Delhi boy who loves playing the piano. “When I play, it’s just the piano and me, in harmony. I lose myself. It’s like a trance,” says Bathla, in a telephonic chat from Delhi, where he is shooting a documentary.
“You never get tired of playing — I would play for eight-10 hours a day. But now, due to concerts and travel, I clock in around three hours a day,” he says, adding, “I don’t get sleep if I don’t play the piano one day.” Bathla might have toured the world, but he owes his musical influence to santoor player, Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma and music director AR Rahman. “Shiv Kumar Sharmaji is not just a maestro but a wonderful soul, and Rahmanji creates music that haunts, in a good way, of course.”
But, Bathla insists he was no child prodigy. “I liked playing many instruments, including the flute, drums and mouth organ. The difference was that I related to the sound of the piano more than any other instrument,” he says. Thus, though he can play 26 instruments — and has learnt them all by himself — the piano remains his foremost love. “What struck me about the piano was that the dexterity with which both hands can work. They work differently but in sync.” For Bathla, the biggest challenge is keeping the mind focused. “It requires absolute concentration. If you get distracted, the notes go awry.”
The musical journey
Bathla, who has a degree in sound engineering and Indian classical music from Mumbai, and a degree in Western music from Trinity College, London, feels his music is ‘soft, heartwarming and therapeutic.’ But his family didn’t take it kindly when he announced his inclination to plunge into a full time music career. In fact, his story almost sounds like a Bollywood script where he was given a choice between taking his 65-year-old family business forward or choosing music and leaving home. “I chose the latter.
I left home, shouldering the responsibility of my wife and a new-born daughter. My wife has been my source of strength. The path I chose was tough,” he says. To sustain himself, he started a school by the name of Passionnotes, where he began teaching kids from the neighbourhood. “All I want to do is spread the magic of the piano,” he says. Interestingly, his student, Gauri Mishra has been named the youngest pianist of India by the High Range Book of World Records.
When he is not sitting by the piano, Bathla is a passionate biker, who also enjoys trekking and swimming. However, as of now, all his energies are concentrated on music. “I am working on an album and I have a few events lined up.”