Red Baraat fuses Punjabi with jazz for all-out party

by Apoorva Dixit | 1/14/14 4:51pm

Baraat is the Hindi word for a groom’s wedding procession, which travels to the bride-to-be’s house on the day of their nuptials. Though it may sound like a formal affair, a baraat is a party on the move. The groom, family and friends dress in elaborate, colorful clothing and dance their way to retrieve the bride.

Now add to this the equally wild and fun energy of a New Orleans jazz band, and you have Red Baraat, who will perform in the Hopkins Center’s Spaulding Auditorium on Thursday evening.

Sunny Jain, Red Baraat’s founder, said he began the group because he wanted to play in a band that reflected Indian brass and baraat bands as well as American jazz, rock and hip-hop influences.

“It’s not just an Indian baraat band or a Punjabi band, but something that is very much a reflection of that energy of the Indian-American boy,” Jain said.

Born in Rochester, N.Y., Jain said that he had to trick his conservative parents to allow him pursue a music major at Rutgers University. Now, just five years after forming the band, Red Baraat schedules about 200 concerts a year — even performing at a TED talk and at the White House.

Don Glasgo, director of the Barbary Coast Jazz Ensemble, said the band stands out for its high energy sounds from different regions of the world. The performers play instruments traditional to baraats, such as dhols, a type of North Indian drum, and shehnais, a double reed oboe, as well as the saucy brass instruments that New Orleans jazz is known for: flugelhorns, soprano saxophones, sousaphones, trombones and trumpets.

“[It’s] one incredible nonstop world music jam,” Glasgo wrote in an email to The Dartmouth.

Creating the band, Jain said he knew he was looking for specific musical voices. He wanted multiple drummers to create a “density of rhythm” and included a variety of brass instruments for a full-bodied jazz sound.

The combination of so many loud and unique instruments is possible since the group composes pieces tailored to highlight its individual musicians, Jain said. The group is also influenced by its favorite Hindi and Punjabi songs, which it infuses with improvisation.

“Everyone is very aware and sensitive to the type of player each person is — their unique style of playing,” Jain said. “[We’re] not looking back at the past and not hoping for the future but just really being in the moment.”

Hop publicity coordinator Rebecca Bailey said that the Hop tries to schedule winter performances that “fight back that seasonal affective disorder.” This band hit the mark, she said, as the group typically leaves its audience “ready to go to a street party.”