9:30 Club presents at U Street Music Hall.
1115 U Street NW
Washington, DC, 20009
Formed in 2008, Red Baraat is a pioneering eight-piece band from Brooklyn, New York. Conceived by Sunny Jain, 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. Created with no less a purposeful agenda than manifesting joy and unity in all people, Red Baraat’s spirit is worn brightly on its sweaty and hard- worked sleeve. And is being returned to them in cities all over the world, as word spreads of the band’s incredibly powerful live performances.
Sunny Jain first made a name for himself as a rising star in the jazz world – awarded the designation of Jazz Ambassador by the U.S. Department of State and the Kennedy Center, and appearing regularly in Downbeat magazine critics polls as he helmed his own bands and kept time for folks like Norah Jones, Kenny Wollesen, and Kyle Eastwood. He played with Junoon -- Pakistan’s pioneering Sufi rock band, and traveled the world as a kit drummer.
While searching for a set of tabla in a music store in New Delhi, India, Jain picked up the dhol, a barrel shaped double sided drum, which hangs over the player’s shoulder. The instrument inspired the artist immediately and he started to look back -- at Punjabi music and Bollywood rhythms he’d listened to his whole life -- and inward, to his own identity, a first-generation Indian American raised in Rochester, New York, navigating the spectrum of cultural dissonance with a home for both Neil Peart and centuries old traditional South Asian drum forms.
The creation of Red Baraat in one of the world’s most dense and diverse metropolises began as an expression of that identity, and has now become more than that. “I had a desire to create a large, acoustic band that brought a powerful, primal sound - just drums and horns. As I was thinking of instrumentation, I knew that I wanted a wide variety of musical minds. It’s the guys in the band that collectively come together to make up the sound of Red Baraat,” says Jain.
If in theory, Red Baraat reads like some kind of ethnomusicologist’s academic dream, let’s agree that in practice, it’s a peyote dream. This is apparent from the needle drop on Shruggy Ji, [Sinj Records] the group’s second full-length studio record, released in January 2013. Red Baraat’s sound is infused with a soul and energy that bursts through the seams of its songs. “Halla Bol” is a power-to-the-people anthem sung in Hindi, literally translating to “raise your voice.” “Burning Instinct” plays like a Tarantino car chase. The title track sits as a perfect testament to the album and the band itself. Impossible to define by genre, it’s just an incredible party jam that moves your parts. The record was produced by Sunny Jain and follows the band’s 2010 debut Chaal Baby, and the digital only live document Bootleg Bhangra.
Live, these songs take on a new life. Night by night, the whip-smart, road-tested band challenges itself, dipping in and out of improvisation, teaching the audience dance moves, and visibly having a blast. Jain’s vision is on clear display - watch closely and you might see the bass horns change course at seemingly no more than the raised eyebrow of the bandleader. But there is no single front man on stage. Each player commands his own space with unique style and verve. Notice has come from high quarters, and the band has found itself in some incredible places.
Red Baraat performed their own TED Talk at the flagship TED Conference in 2012, in front of a dancing audience of thought leaders including Al Gore, Matt Groening, and David Byrne. They accepted an invitation to the White House, where an assembly of elected and business leaders expecting a string quartet were treated to a full throttle bhangra thrown-down. They were brought clandestinely to Google’s Mountain View Campus by a fan on the inside – and second-lined the joint—with Google employees streaming in from all directions as the event went from zero to viral within two songs. And were handpicked to close the London 2012 Paralympic Games in the center of Trafalgar Square.
But even as it’s clear that Red Baraat is building a startling history of performances in iconic settings, the band’s bread and butter remains the sweaty clubs, festivals, packed performing arts centers, and college auditoriums that have kept the band on the road all over the world for nearly 200 dates a year. It’s here where the band does what it does best- communing with their audience in a joyful, near hedonistic celebration of music and dance, which tellingly, draws a crowd even more diverse than the players on stage. Here, the universality of what Red Baraat does is undeniable. And this is no happy accident. It is the product of intention and design. Says Jain, “We are simple creatures that desire community. If we can unite people of all backgrounds and ethnicities to partake in the exuberance of life through the universal language of music, then life is that much sweeter.” Brooklyn, NY January 2013
Red Baraat is:
Sunny Jain, Dhol/MC Rohin Khemani, Percussion Tomas Fujiwara, Drumset Mike Bomwell, Soprano Saxophone Sonny Singh, Trumpet/Vocals MiWi La Lupa, Bass Trumpet/Vocals Ernest Stuart, Trombone John Altieri, Sousaphone/Vocals
A singer and trombone player, Smoota writes steamy, sensual songs with a directness and honesty unusual in music. His groovy, provocative, and arousing style has drawn comparisons to Serge Gainsbourg, Barry White, Bryan Ferry, Peaches, and Beck. Renowned for his passionate trombone playing and tours with TV on the Radio, Sufjan Stevens, and Spoon, Smoota has developed a reputation for a rare combination of alluring lyrics and warm, erotic sounds.
Smoota recorded his 2013 debut Fetishes entirely alone, often late at night, less than ten feet from his bed. To create an intimate sound, he limited the instruments to voice, trombone, bass, an old Wurlitzer electric organ, and the Maestro Rhythm King, an early 70s drum machine used by the likes of Little Beaver, Shuggie Otis, and Timmy Thomas. Inspired by the soundscape of Sly Stone's There's A Riot Going On, the wordplay of George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic, and the honest, confessional treatment of sex and male-female relations found in his favorite movies and books, Smoota emerged with an intimate concept album unabashedly exploring the rich landscape and dark underbelly of male sexuality. Songs explore sexual fantasy, joyful infidelity, the power of suggestion, bodily functions, violence as aphrodisiac, bedroom mishaps, rock n' roll lust, the erotics of race, and the infinite variety of personal fetishes.
In 2013 Smoota completed three European tours and tours of Australia, Singapore, Texas, and California. He will complete East Coast and West Coast tours in November and December 2013.
FETISHES will be released on vinyl/CD/digital on October 29 on Body To Body Records.
Smoota grew up near Boston and studied Film and Literature at Harvard University, where he played trombone and made 16mm films under the tutelage of Yugoslavian maverick filmmaker Dusan Makavejev. After college, he moved to San Francisco and played bass in psych funk band C'mon Feet while working at Ubiquity Records, home of beloved rare groove label Luv n' Haight. Upon moving to Brooklyn, Smoota picked up the trombone again and, after rejecting life as a book editor, began playing music full-time.
He currently plays trombone with acclaimed art rock band TV on the Radio and toured with Sufjan Stevens on his trombone-heavy Age of Adz tour (2010-11). He has also played and/or recorded with Spoon, Miike Snow, Elvis Costello, El-P, Pretty Lights, Deer Tick, MNDR, Pharaoh Monche, Gordan Gano of the Violent Femmes, Akron/Family, Bebel Gilberto, Angelique Kidjo, The Bogmen, Red Baraat, Chin Chin and many others. Smoota also played trombone and keyboards with Antibalas in Fela!, the Broadway musical directed by choreographer Bill T. Jones about the life of Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti . On Halloween 2009, he joined Sharon Jones and members of the Dap-Kings to help Phish cover the Rolling Stones album Exile on Main Street, documented in the 2010 film Phish 3D. And in 2010, Smoota played trombone and acted in a stage opera version of Melvin Van Peebles' proto-blaxploitation flick Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, directed by Van Peebles himself and featuring music from Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber, the cosmic freak soul group led by Greg Tate (co-founder of the Black Rock Coalition with Living Colour's Vernon Reid). Smoota can usually be found on Monday nights playing at Union Pool in Williamsburg, Brooklyn with local dirty gospel R&B institution Rev. Vince Anderson and the Love Choir.