Formed in 2008, Red Baraat is a pioneering eight-piece band from Brooklyn, New York. Conceived by Sunny Jain (interviewed below), the group has drawn worldwide praise for its singular sound — a merging of hard driving North Indian bhangra rhythms with elements of jazz, go-go, brass funk, and hip-hop. Playing in cities all over the world, as word spreads of the band’s incredibly powerful live performances, Red Baraat will be heading to Australia for the first time to play at WOMADelaide.
With energetic live performances, a unique sound that incorporates influences from all sorts of genres, Red Baraat is a band that is a must see for a live performance. Below, we caught up with lead singer Sunny Jain, talking all things Brooklyn, New York and the energy of live performances.
Hi there Sunny how are you?
I’m doing excellent thank you!
Your music seems to stream from a lot of North-Indian bhangra, but there’s a little bit of Jazz and other styles thrown in. How do you go about composing your songs to suit that sort of style?
It’s really quite an interesting process. There’s eight people in the band and everyone has their own musical sensibility. Like our trombone player might have an idea for a song that’s quite different than everyone else’s idea. We come together and sort of go through each influence, it’s quite cool in that way because of the roots and the foundations it involves, that American sensibility behind it. Jazz, RnB and Hip Hop, it really involves each style in that organic fashion without really specifying a specific genre. Everyone is very open, no one really has a particular construct that they want to follow or need to follow. We listen with open ears to everyone’s style and that’s really how our songs come together.
Your live shows have been described as an energetic dance party. What do you enjoy most about playing live?
The biggest thing about music for me is that it’s a form of meditation. It requires you to be in the moment, to really be in the moment and to really centre yourself around that. When playing live shows we’re getting rid of distractions such as checking Facebook, texts and phone calls, it sort of becomes a sacred place. For me and for us, the greatest thing about playing live is being in the moment. Having that communication with the band members, the audience and with the music; it’s spiritual. The band isn’t your typical pop or rock band, we use improvisation a lot in our live shows, and we act as if we;re throwing this huge party full of energy and lots and lots of dancing. Improvisation bring flexibility along with it, and it’s a lot of fun.
You guys also played at the London 2012 Closing Paralympics. That must of been quite an experience. How did yourself and the band prepare for that?
It was in Trafalgar square so that was pretty cool. We were given a two week tour playing throughout the UK. So it was probably the same preparation, not really necessarily different, except acknowledging that we were playing in the middle of Trafalgar square. There were loads of people around and it was certainly an awesome experience.
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Music is about unity and joining people together, and I think you do this exceptionally well with the music you all create. Where do you see yourselves going in the future?
It’s funny you asked that, we actually just finished recording our next album last night. We spent the last week in the studio, recording about 11 songs and getting them ready to release for summer this year. Myself and the band want to keep making music, and potentially do some collaborative efforts with other artists. We’d love to continue touring as well.
What’s interesting with this new album is that we’re adding new effects, so it’s lending itself to a much darker sound, like a fierce and ferocious sound, not a dark sound as such. Working on an album is different to playing live, it’s very rigorous. When you play live no matter what happens, it happens. Recording is all about finding that balance of getting it right, but not getting it perfectly right. I don’t like obsessing over it. I think sometimes that what’s wrong with music nowadays is obsessing over perfection. Music should be about hearing that human quality. That little slip up, or timing gone astray for a second; that allows you to know that human being has played it.
Are there any festivals or countries you would like to play in that you haven’t visited before?
We still need to play in India and Pakistan, which is completely ridiculous because that’s where a lot of our music is influenced from, but unfortunately we just haven’t gotten over there. We have been scheduled to play a government sponsored tour in Pakistan, but when the government shut down last year it got cancelled. It’ll be really interesting to play there because they’re going to be our harshest critics, they’re either going to really love our music or hate it, it’s going to be interesting.
Everywhere you travel you must be influenced in one way or another. How do you think you carry the style of Brooklyn, New York around with you?
That’s in us because of the energy of the city, there’s really nothing quite like it. Brooklyn has changed in the sense that it’s still gritty, it allows for so much creativity. It’s become very different. Brooklyn to me is where adventurous people are and venues support that. It’s the energy and charge of the city, it’s literally a city that never sleeps. You can always get a sandwich at any hour. The urgency that New Yorker’s have, we really incorporate that into our music and it inspires us a lot.