Red Baraat brings a wild blend of styles to Three Rivers Arts Festival
June 13, 2013 8:00 AM
Erin Patrice O'Brien
Red Baraat, which will perform Friday night, is led by Sunny Jain, center.
By Antoine Allen Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Sunny Jain doesn't think of music in terms of genre; he just composes what he hears in his head.
"Growing up, I had this very strong Indian side, but I also had this very strong American side, and they were very much separated throughout high school. I would go to Jain Pujas [a religious ritual] weekly and then, on Saturday, I would go out and play football with my friends," said Mr. Jain.
"When I started writing music, it was natural for me to fuse those things because, for me, it was finally a way to bridge what just felt like such disparate cultures."
Mr. Jain's conflict came to life when, in 2008, he formed Red Baraat, an eight-piece band that features musicians from a variety of backgrounds. Although Mr. Jain isn't fond of genre titles, he describes his band's sound as Brooklyn-bhangra.
According to Mr. Jain, Brooklyn describes the "amalgamation of music," and bhangra describes "the root of the melodies and rhythms."
At the center of the band is Mr. Jain and his dhol, a double-sided drum that is popular in Punjabi bhangra music.
Aside from Mr. Jain, the band is made up of two trumpeters, a saxophonist, two drummers, a trombonist and a sousaphonist. Some of the band members double as vocalists and rappers.
The band was inspired by Mr. Jain's first trip to India. At the age of 5, he went to Delhi, India, for his uncle's wedding and witnessed his first baraat, a Punjabi wedding procession. Ever since, Mr. Jain has wanted to recreate the celebration.
Red Baraat brings together the horns, drums and brass sounds that inspired the band and creates an environment that brings the most skeptical of audiences to their feet.
"It's good to see people looking up and looking around saying, 'What the hell is this? This is cool,' " said Mr. Jain. "It's fun to get up on stage and reach new people with our sound."
The band's sound is ever-changing. The band is moving away from Indian covers and toward collaborative, original compositions.
"It is a unique sound, but it certainly resonates with all types of people. If Indian folks are checking it out, they hear the bhangra rhythms, they hear the Bollywood music [and] they hear the Sufi rhythms. Jazz players hear the jazz improv. Brazilian folks say that it sounds like Brazilian music. When we go to the D.C./Virginia area, they hear the go-go influence. When we go to New Orleans, it feels like the cousin-brother of New Orleans brass music. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what it is," said Mr. Jain.
Listeners hear the buoyancy and syncopation that are prevalent across many different music styles.
Last summer, the band played at Club Cafe on Pittsburgh's South Side. The hundred-person crowd consisted of first-timers and new fans, some who had seen the band perform in New Orleans and San Francisco.
When it performs on World Music Day Friday as a part of the Three Rivers Arts Festival, the band plans to play at least one of four remixes from its new EP, "Big Talk."
"You can expect a really fun dance party," said Mr. Jain. "Let's just get down, dance, have fun, scream and yell. That's what it's really about for us."