Features, Print June 19, 2019

Red Baraat: Hear The World In The Beat Of The Bhangra

by Emily Wenger

Sunny Jain grew up in the U.S., but his parents still filled their home with traditional religious music from Hinduism and Jainism, followed by the classic rock and hip-hop favored by his siblings. The amalgamation of genres his family listened to followed Jain into adulthood, and Red Baraat, the band he formed in 2008, is a reflection of those sounds.

His parents weren’t sure about his career choice at first, although Jain said he always felt supported. The life of a professional musician was foreign to them, but after he turned 30 they finally stopped asking them what he earns, he said with a laugh. His career path brings him once again to Colorado, as Red Baraat plays Fort Collins on a yet-to-be-announced date (The June 27 show at The Armory, has been postponed.)

Photo by Dani Gros

Colorado may not be as familiar with the Bhangra as is Red Baraat’s home city of New York. The upbeat North Indian style of playing which colors the band’s music originated in 1940’s Punjab and might be rare to these parts, but everyone can relate to some of the musical elements the band incorporates. Each audience member brings their own musical background with them when at a show, Jain said, and hears something different: “I would argue that our sounds aren’t foreign really anywhere.”

The band brings their backgrounds to the stage too. The New York jazz scene where Jain spent his early professional music days is a prominent influence on Red Baraat. These days were important to his musical development, Jain said, but when he was only playing jazz he found something was missing.

About 15 years ago Jain began playing the dhol, bhangra’s traditional double-headed drum, and realized what that something was: community. He played at more intimate gatherings, with little separation between band and audience, and it reminded him why he fell in love with being a musician.

From there, he said, forming Red Baraat was a natural next step. He found other band members from various backgrounds, including ska, punk, rock, Indian classical and classical, and they just, as he puts it, started jamming. He thought, at first, it could just be a “fun little project” with a communal vibe.

Now, the band plays about 70 or 80 shows a year across the U.S. and in Europe, and that’s after Jain scaled back so they could take a short break from touring last fall — the first the band has taken in years.

The festivals they play and bands with whom they play are varied, and wherever Red Baraat goes Jain hears different descriptions of what people hear in their music. Jazz aficionados tell him it’s a great jazz group. Others say it sounds Brazilian, or Trinidadian. When they travel to New Orleans, people say it sounds like a cousin to New Orleans bands.

Photo by Sachyn Mital

Colorado, he said, is one of the states that really seems open to the variety of sound Red Baraat brings. He’s excited for the band’s first visit to Fort Collins, but for Jain, the biggest challenge in visiting Colorado is leaving.

Someday, he said, he’d like to move out here full time, but until then he’s just happy to get a peek at the Rocky Mountains and share the love he and his band have for music. And maybe introduce Colorado’s music community to something new.

Red Baraat’s vibrant and unforgettable show comes to Fort Collins on a yet-to-be-announced date. Click here for tickets and more information.