Led by its Rochester, NY-born, Brooklyn-based bandleader dholi, drummer and composer Sunny Jain (a dhol, is a shoulder slung, two-headed drum, typically one of the main instruments of bhangra), who has recorded several jazz albums with his Sunny Jain Collective and has collaborated with Norah Jones, Peter Gabriel, Q-Tip, and the acclaimed Pakistani Sufi rock band Junoon and others; and featuring John Altieri (sousaphone), Ernest Stuart (trombone), Jonathon Haffner (saxophone), Sonny Singh (trumpet), Chris Eddleton (drums), Rohin Khemani (drums), and newest member Jonathan Goldberger (guitar), the newly-constituted Brooklyn-based octet Red Baarat, whose name derives its name from a baraat, a wild wedding procession that Jain explains in press notes includes a groom on top of a horse, extended friends and family singing and dancing, usually led by a brass band and for what the color red symbolizes in both Indian and American culture. (Red is typically worn at traditionally Indian weddings and symbolizes fiery passion; the sort of passion that Jain and company have towards music and the passion they elicit from listeners.)
Although the band formed back in 2008, with the release of their critically applauded and commercially successful sophomore effort, Shruggy Ji, the members of the Brooklyn-based collective developed a national and international profile for a seamless, genre and boundary-defying sound that draws from Indian classical music, bhangra, hip-hop, rock and pop with rousingly anthemic hooks and a dance floor friendly funk, based around Jain’s utopian vision and faith that communication across cultures simply takes empathy, creativity, love and a willingness to surrender to the spirit of music, art — and of the moment. And as a result of Shruggy Ji‘s critical and commercial success, the band has played some of the world’s biggest, most renowned music festivals, including Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Peter Gabriel’s WOMAD Festivals in Australia, New Zealand and the UK, played sold out headlining shows at the Luxembourg Philharmonic, the Bowery Ballroom and have performed at the request of The White House, TED and the Olympic Games. Considering that we’re living in a presidential administration that is ruled around hate and distrust of outsiders and others, Jain and company’s mission seems not just hopeful; but proudly, defiantly revolutionary.
The band’s forthcoming (and much-anticipated) third full-length effort Bhangra Pirates is the first album with the band’s latest addition, guitarist Johnathan Goldberger, who adds psychedelic and surrealistic textures and percussive guitar lines. Additionally, the band has played a bit with their sound as the dhol and sousaphone also have been processed in a subtle fashion — while retaining the enormous, propulsive, tribal stomp and equally enormous New Orleans brass-leaning horn section that won them international attention as you’ll hear on the rousing single “Bhangale,” which features guest spots from Delicate Steve. What has personally won me over with their sound — and you’ll hear it on “Bhangale” is that there’s a sweaty, “you-are-there” improvised feel, in which the musicians seem to quickly get into a sustained and forceful groove and follow it and each other to its inevitable conclusion. And frankly, if it doesn’t make you get up and start stomping around and shouting along with them, there’s something wrong.