Red Baraat Brings Jazz with an Indian Accent

By Lynch, Bill | The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV), June 21, 2012 | Go to article overview

Red Baraat Brings Jazz with an Indian Accent


Lynch, Bill, The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV)


Based on its sound, it might not always be apparent what fusion band Red Baraat is a fusion of, exactly.

The group, which performs Saturday at Wine & All That Jazz, conjures up a melting pot of raucous sound. It's big, loud and fun. It can come across as maybe a little bit like Samba music from South America, a little bit like old New Orleans-style big band jazz or even a little bit like the music of the West Indies and Trinidad.

None of that would be wrong, and Sunny Jain takes the references as a compliment, a tribute to the universal nature of music - but that the band has those sounds is at least partly accidental.

Jain is Red Baraat's bandleader and plays the dhol (a two-headed Indian drum) for the group. He grew up in Rochester, N.Y., the son of immigrant parents from India, and was immersed in traditional jazz music. He said he listened to a lot of jazz drummers, like Max Roach, Surfer Brown, Silly Joe and others.

"But I also grew up with a lot of Indian music and, of course, rock 'n' roll and some old Motown."

As an Indian-American, Jain said there was never much question for him if he should mix the music and cultures of the East and West. Fusion came naturally, and early on, he started playing in bands that mixed the two.

But he still wanted something that sounded different.

"So the band really came together with the intention of looking back at the brass band tradition in India."

Jain said the tradition started during the period of European colonialism in the 18th century. Brass instruments like the bugle and trombone began showing up, along with the snare drum, but Indian musicians applied local rhythms to them.

These brass bands still play on the streets in parts of India.

"What struck me was the cacophony of it," he said. "It wasn't a New Orleans sound or a Western jazz band sound, largely."

The sound was raw and honest - not because the musicians meant to play their instruments that way, but because they didn't know any other way to do it.

"I don't think the guys playing those instruments were well trained or schooled," Jain said. "They played more out of necessity, to make money. …

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