I woke up this morning with a brass band playing in my head. That happens sometimes. For some reason, my subconscious thinks that it makes sense to ring in the new year with some bhangra/jazz fusion. What say you? The song is “Balle Balle” and the band is Red Baraat, a dhol & brass group based in NYC. Luckily for fans of their work, Red Baraat releases their debut CD, Chaal Baby, January 30. I’ve been hearing great things about them since fall and I’m happy to say their CD does not disappoint. Check out the review by The Philadelphia Inquirer’s David R. Stampone:
Ethnomusicological sourcing of rhythm-based world-music fusions has its own edifying appeal – but if the jams are no fun, who cares? Can’t fake the funk. That’s not a problem with Red Baraat, an irresistible “dhol ‘n’ brass” nine-piece from New York City directed by acclaimed drummer Sunny Jain. It’s got the infectious allure of a rolling New Orleans brass band (bottom-ended by some deep sousaphone) crossed with the giddy beats of bhangra, the North Indian feel-good style that has taken root all over the world, particularly in subcontinental immigrant communities (see the dancing wedding-goers in Bend It Like Beckham).
Raised in Rochester by Punjabi parents, Jain has drummed since age five, including jazz gigs, with international Sufi-rock band Junoon, on Broadway in the Bombay Dreams production, and in numerous ensembles of his own. Red Baraat originally formed to play at Jain’s own nuptials a few years ago. The debut album’s lead track is indeed “Punjabi Wedding Song (Balle Balle),” and baraat is a Hindi term for marriage procession. In the last year, RB has captivated crowds beyond the wedding circuit with Jain leading the funked-up action on the two-sided Punjabi dhol drum. He invented “dhol ‘n’ brass” – and this record proves that Red Baraat rules it.
Red Baraat does rule it. Want to learn more about this talented group? Check out my friend Taz’s interview with drummer Sunny Jain and trumpeter Sonny Singh on Sepia Mutiny. And for you Twitter freaks, you can follow Jain on Twitter. Visit their website and listen to the tracks on their new CD, especially No.1, the full version of “Balle Balle.” Done? Good. Now compare it with the first five minutes of Bride & Prejudice. (And you thought Naveen Andrews was only on Lost, shame on you!)