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Meet Los Angeles-Based Composer Salil Bhayani

The musician has scored music for films, documentaries and video games

Rolling Stone India Feb 05, 2020

Los Angeles-based composer Salil Bhayani. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

At the tender age of five, Mumbai-bred Los Angeles-based composer/producer Salil Bhayani began learning Hindustani classical vocals from his grandfather. He says, “I remember sitting with a notebook in which he had immaculately written out the material he was teaching me.” With that early introduction to music, Bhayani went on to pursue it further at Boston’s Berklee College of Music and has since dabbled his toes in scoring for television, films, video games and more.

According to Bhayani, scoring for a film is a “big project.” He adds, “Other things involve spotting the film with the director, discussing the concept, listening to the temp score that the director has for the film [and] really understanding the story the filmmaker is trying to convey.” The musician states that as a film composer, one needs to wear different hats at different times. He says, “You are the CEO, the project manager, the composer, the entrepreneur, a friend and a collaborator.”

Bhayani explains that his Indian musical styles also creep in at some point when he composes western sounds. Although, he says, “It may not be obvious, but I can always listen back and recognize where the influences lay.” He adds, “I certainly never try and force any particular style just because I know it. The point of composing for film is to serve the story.”

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Looking back at his time at Berklee, the composer tells us that it was “the best four years of my (his) life.” Bhayani explains how the experience enriched him to further his craft while also reeling off the names of prominent people that walked into the doors at the music school. Those included bassist Viktor Wooten, film composers Howard Shore, James Newton Howard, Patrick Doyle and more. “The chair of the film scoring department at the time, George S Clinton, is a composer on Hollywood films such as Austin Powers and Mortal Kombat,” says Bhayani. The musician was also fortunate to perform with renowned Indian composer A.R. Rahman at the Boston Symphony Hall. He says, “[It was] a tribute concert in honor of him [Rahman] receiving an honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music.”

Currently, Bhayani is working on scores for an action thriller and even a horror film. “I am excited about this particular film,” he says. Also nearing completion is music for first-person adventure video game Under a Porcelain Sun by Studio Oleomingus. “I have a few short films [in the works] I will be scoring as well,” says the composer.

Another big milestone Bhayani is ticking off this year is starting his own company which will cater to filmmakers who need music and sound for their creations. “It will be a one-stop-shop for filmmakers from the entire spectrum,” he says.  On what it takes to be a film composer, Bhayani says, “If you know how to tell a story through music, you can be a film composer.”

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