Red Baraat founder Sunny Jain discusses nature of his ‘festive, joyous’ band

By Heather Longley


Dohl musician Sunny Jain formed Red Baraat out of necessity, but he said the band “kind of evolved into this stage show-festival kind of club show.”

Music critics took notice and heaped praise on the band.

“Much of this music has the furnace-blast intensity of punk or metal, but it’s delivered in a world-music aesthetic,” said a reviewer in DownBeat. NPR called the Brooklyn-based ensemble “the best party band in years.”

Red Baraat’s eight musicians meld brass-band jazz, northern Indian rhythm, hip-hop, ska and punk with a jam-band ethos.

“It’s a big festive, kind of joyous band,” Jain said, with a rhythmic beat to set the tone of the fall semester.

Red Baraat will make its Penn State debut headlining the Center for the Performing Arts Move Mix Festival at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 12, at the Eisenhower Auditorium rear loading dock. The ensemble will start its set at 6:15 p.m. Visit Move Mix for information about the artists and a performance schedule. Entry is free, but registration is required.

The band’s set is for fans of bold, constant, rhythmic and repetitive percussion; sinewy big-band brass; Punjabi wedding music; and rolling your Rs.

“It’s not just an Indian marching band, but it’s very much an amalgamation of different sounds being a South Asian-American growing up with jazz, hip-hop and prog rock. And then certainly because of all the different players and what they’re bringing in their aesthetics and their artistic endeavors,” Jain said.

The versatile percussion virtuoso has worked with a variety of artists, including Peter Gabriel, Norah Jones, Rudresh Mahanthappa and David Byrne. His band has performed live for the music web series “Live on KEXP” and NPR Music’s “Tiny Desk Concert”; at Wolf Trap with Zakir Hussain and Falu’s Bollywood Orchestra; and at the 2023 Three Rivers Arts Festival.

He said he formed Red Baraat (“red wedding procession”) in 2008 while looking for musicians to play his own ceremony, but also as a reason to practice dhol.

“When I was 18, I started studying tabla. I was in India buying a set of tabla, and I saw the Bhangra dhol there. I was like, oh, let me grab one of those two and just mess around with it. And I instantly fell in love with it.

“I think the main thing is it’s mobile, so I’m not sitting in a drum set anymore,” he said. “I can move around. I can literally be standing next to someone immersed in a crowd, immersed in an audience.”

Heather Longley is a communications specialist at the Center for the Performing Arts.