Red Baraat, Saturday & Sunday, Cabanas
Get ready for the most exotic, most exuberant party band you’ve ever encountered. Indeed, this Brooklyn-based brass band blends the rhythms of hard-driving North Indian Bhangra music with elements of funk, go-go, rock and hip-hop, creating an irresistible mix on the dance floor. Led by dhol player Sunny Jain, who was born to Punjabi parents in Rochester, New York, the six-piece band has drawn worldwide praise. National Public Radio has dubbed them “the best party band in years” while Stereogum magazine said, “Red Baraat hits with the force of a spiritual awakening.”
Founded in 2008 by dhol player Jain (the dhol is a large hand-held drum with two heads meant to be played on both the top and bottom; the dance drum in Punjabi music, it's heard in virtually all music from Bollywood), Red Barat is an amalgam of South Asian wedding band, bhangra, funk, big-band jazz, Balkan wedding music and the sounds of New Orleans brass bands. The band's first album, 2009's Chaal Baby, was followed by relentless national touring that saw them performing marathon shows at small clubs, the White House, Brooklyn Bowl and the Bonnaroo Festival. Red Baraat's second album, 2013’s Shruggy Ji, reached #1 on the Billboard World Albums chart. Gaadi of Truth followed in 2015 while 2016’s Livewire captured a performance at the KEXP studio in Seattle that incorporated electric guitar and live effects on some of the acoustic instruments. The ensemble's followed with 2017’s Bhangra Pirates.
Their latest offering is Sound the People, which contains the boisterous “Punjab March,” the playful “Moray Gari Suno,” an enticing blend of Indian and Caribbean music, and a take on the traditional “Gora Mukra,” done at a fervent pitch. The edgy title track is a stunning collision of traditional Indian music and rebellious hip-hop, centered around a politically-charged rap by Heems of the Brooklyn hip-hop group Das Racist. Constructed from disparate ideas about the South Asian diaspora, migration and the current political climate, it is a defiant battle cry against the current direction of the Trump Administration. “It’s hard to escape saying something about the time we’re living in,” says Jain, who began writing the album just weeks after Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election. “So in a sense, the record is a call to action against the various inequalities and injustices that we’re seeing. We desperately need citizen engagement in response to those injustices.” Simultaneously insurrectionary and fun, Red Baraat spreads joy while providing some food for thought on its fifth outing.
Whether you know anything about the tradition of punjabi dance, you will be hard-pressed to resist Red Baraat’s wildly infectious, soul-grooving music. Signature numbers likes “Chaal Baby,” “Baraat to Nowhere” and “Shruggy Ji” will keep party people on the dance floor all night long.
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