If you’ve never experienced a wedding as the occasion is celebrated in India, Red Baraat will give you a glimpse into the carnival-like sounds and feels of the event. But that’s not all – these guys are more than just an Indian brass band. They’ve got flares of samba, funk, bhangra and even the grandeur of a New Orleans marching band. With all those flavors in one pot, Red Baraat pulls a diverse crowd to its music.
“People aren’t familiar with that word ‘baraat’ here,” said front man Sunny Jain. “We gotta educate the population.”
A “baraat” is the groom’s wedding procession, as he makes his way to the bride’s house to sweep her off her feet and marry her. The groom traditionally rides a horse through town and is accompanied by his family members and a marching band. “Bhangra” is a North Indian/Punjabi style of popular music heavy on drums and brass. A baraat is often paired with bhangra in many weddings, which makes for one of the wildest and most memorable nights of an Indian family’s life.
Red Baraat is a collection of musicians from Brooklyn, N.Y., who came together when Jain took an interest in expressing his Punjabi-American identity through music. Jain recorded three jazz records before forming Red Baraat. When he started experimenting with the dhol, a crisp sounding dual-headed drum used in bhangra, he changed direction.
“Indian fusion music is always either with tabla or sitar or vocals,” Jain said. “I was surprised – why is no one doing this with dhol? It’s so prevalent in Bollywood music. It’s so fun to play.”
After about five years of learning the instrument, Jain gathered seven other musicians in the area in hope of fusing all of their musical sensibilities under one name.
Red Baraat is led by Sunny Jain (dhol/MC) with Rohin Khemani (percussion), Tomas Fujiwara (drumset), Mike Bomwell (soprano sax), Sonny Singh (trumpet/vocals), MiWi La Lupa (bass trumpet/vocals), Ernest Stuart (trombone) and John Altieri (sousaphone/rap).
Their debut album, “Chaal Baby,” features a series of high-voltage originals and covers of blockbuster bhangra songs that infect listeners with bhangra fever. Their latest record, “Shruggy Ji,” fuses that same energy with focus on a message of freedom and self-expression. Tracks such as “Halla Bol,” which translates to “raise your voice,” and “Azad Azad,” meaning “independent,” portray the next step in the evolution of the band. The album topped the iTunes World Music chart after its release this January.
“It’s truly amazing,” Jain said. “We feel very lucky to have such a great fan base. We just love performing and creating that energy with the people. At the end of the day, we need them as much as they need us.”
Red Baraat is in town for Mardi Gras festivities. Catch them at Blue Nile on Sunday, Feb 10, at 10 p.m. They also open for Galactic at Tipitina’s on Lundi Gras, Feb. 11, at 10 p.m and perform at the Hi-Ho Lounge on Mardi Gras, Feb. 12, at 4:30 p.m.
Check out their music at http://www.redbaraat.com or on Spotify.