Shruggy Ji - Red Baraat
No wires, no strings attached, Red Baraat was built for the street. But, it’s not St. Charles Avenue and the boys ain’t blowin’ Dixieland. This nine piece brass, wind and percussion outfit was born in the multi-culti hard scrabble of Brooklyn, one of the few places in the world with the sheer bombast to brew an acoustic, horn-driven, mobile, cultural collective powered by the rhythm of the dhol (the double sided Punjabi drum which is the essence of the Bhangra beat). The suave and mustachioed Sonny Jain take centre stage with the dhol, MCing and pounding out the North Indian folk rhythm that’s foundational to Red Baraat’s music. There are some other notable voices in the band when their mouths aren’t fastened to reed or mouthpiece. Trumpeter, Sonny Singh has an amazing range which he exploits with stratospheric wails and sustains. Impossibly, Red Baraat use contemporary, urban constructs for their compositions, including power chords and hip hop breaks! During a recent performance at the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival (their first gig in front of a Vancouver crowd) the audience took to them immediately, and on Shruggy Ji, it’s sometimes disconcerting to think that the bass is a sousaphone and the breaks aren’t programmed by a DJ. Their Jazz Fest show was dismissed by the local Vancouver newspaper music hack as being ‘one dimensional’. Red Baraat has four albums to their credit and tons of accolades so they don’t need me jumping to their defense. But, in answer to that critique I would simply say, “It may be one dimensional, but that dimension is of Red Baraat’s own making and no one else is operating in that dimension, so what’s the problem?” The band is a unique entity that deserves a prominent place in a flaccid world of homogenized pop. Shruggy Ji rocks with plenty of mood diversity, from the hip hop of the title tracks to the instrumental goodness of Sialkot to Azad Azad, at track 11 it puts the whole machine together in a beautiful configuration. Long live Red Baraat.