No Sleep ’til Bangalore
Red Baraat brings the world to Louisville
Here’s the kind of guy Sunny Jain is in 2013: He’s been working so hard that, even during a week-long vacation on a Cape Cod beach, he’ll step out of the water to take a phone call to talk about his music.
Jain’s band, Red Baraat, has been a thrilling surprise in the five years since they emerged in Brooklyn — a dance-party band steeped primarily in Indian wedding music but merged with enough New Orleans funk and jam-band exploration to make sense to an increasingly global American audience.
It’s a sound that transcends age, as well. Red Baraat is playing Louisville for the third time in two years, and Jain fondly remembers the crowd at their first, in the Bomhard Theater, whose dance floor included 80-year-olds and 6-year-olds getting down together.
Since the release of their second studio album, Shruggy Ji, in January, the band has played everywhere from the White House to Austin City Limits, and have their first band dates in India and Pakistan scheduled in mid-September — in between dates in Seattle and Minneapolis. That’s quite a unique routing issue, yes?
“Right!” Jain laughs. “Exactly ...” A Midwestern tour had been scheduled, but the band couldn’t turn down such an opportunity, which is why the band will play Indiana’s Lotus Fest shortly after playing in India.
The trip is a dream come true in two ways: “It’s been a special musical aspiration to get the band over to India,” Jain begins, “and, also, a personal one — to get to go. And I’ve never been to Pakistan. My parents were originally from there, before Partition happened in 1947. They fled to the eastern side, which remained India.”
It’s rewarding for Jain, who was raised in Rochester, N.Y., to “get back there and soak up the roots of where my family originally comes from — that northwestern region of the subcontinent.”
That trip, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, includes gigs planned in Mumbai and Bangalore, with additional visits to Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. It will be really cool, Jain says, to see a whole other part of the world, to meet people and to see how his band’s music works so far away from home. The government won’t have any more involvement beyond supporting the band’s travels; Jain says they don’t plan to speak about diversity or politics, content as always to let their onstage music and interactions speak for itself.
He’s not worried much about music purists, though, noting that India, too, has its share of Western-style DJs and pop groups. “I think folks like that exist everywhere, and they have their beliefs … The idea of blending together different kinds of music, I think that exists all over the world.”
Most of his relatives reside in Delhi, and the band’s visit coincides with a Jain family event in Delhi that weekend. Trumpeter Sonny Singh and percussionist Rohin Khemani have family closer, as well as local musician friends, and the band hopes to see them.
The band has become popular enough on the festival circuit that they have already begun their own fest, Festival of Colors, which pays homage to India’s Holi celebration. Having already added a Philadelphia date on top of its Brooklyn home, the band hopes to expand it further next year.
By the end of this year, the band plans to take a few months off the road to work on their next album. In June, Red Baraat issued a bonus EP, Big Talk, which features new songs as well as remixes done by members of their Brooklyn neighbor bands, Antibalas and TV On the Radio.
The baseball fan is also looking forward to returning to Louisville and seeing where Sluggers are produced. “I’ve heard about (WorldFest) for a minute now, so it’s nice to be invited to come and play,” says Jain. The Brooklynites first heard about it when Appalatin, their local opener in February at Headliners, suggested it and helped connect the band and the fest.
Jain says he hasn’t yet woken up on the road and not known what city he is in — but he has woken up in his own bed and forgotten that he’s not on tour. He enjoys the chaos, and “When the normalcy of life sets in — that throws me,” he laughs.
WorldFest with Red Baraat and many more
Friday, Aug. 30
Free; Red Baraat plays Friday at 9:30 p.m.