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Red Baraat brings jazz with an Indian accent

WANT TO GO?

Wine and All That Jazz

WHERE: University of Charleston riverfront lawn

WHEN: 2 to 10 p.m. Saturday

TICKETS: Advance $18, at the gate $20

INFO: 304-345-0775 or www.fundfortheartswv.orgCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Based on its sound, it may not always be apparent what fusion band Red Baraat is a fusion of, exactly.

The group, which performs Saturday at Wine & All That Jazz, conjures up a melting pot of raucous sound. It's big, loud and fun. It can come across as maybe a little bit like Samba music from South America, a little bit like old New Orleans-style big band jazz or even a little bit like the music of the West Indies and Trinidad.

None of that would be wrong, and Sunny Jain takes the references as a compliment, a tribute to the universal nature of music -- but that the band has those sounds is at least partly accidental.  

Jain is Red Baraat's bandleader and plays the dhol (a two-headed Indian drum) for the group. He grew up in Rochester, N.Y., the son of immigrant parents from India, and was immersed in traditional jazz music. He said he listened to a lot of jazz drummers, like Max Roach, Surfer Brown, Silly Joe and others  

"But I also grew up with a lot of Indian music and, of course, rock n' roll and some old Motown."

As an Indian-American, Jain said there was never much question for him if he should mix the music and cultures of the East and West. Fusion came naturally, and early on, he started playing in bands that mixed the two.

But he still wanted something that sounded different.

"So the band really came together with the intention of looking back at the brass band tradition in India."

Jain said the tradition started during the period of European colonialism in the 18th century. Brass instruments like the bugle and trombone began showing up, along with the snare drum, but Indian musicians applied local rhythms to them.

These brass bands still play on the streets in parts of India.

"What struck me was the cacophony of it," he said. "It wasn't a New Orleans sound or a Western jazz band sound, largely."

The sound was raw and honest -- not because the musicians meant to play their instruments that way, but because they didn't know any other way to do it.

"I don't think the guys playing those instruments were well trained or schooled," Jain said. "They played more out of necessity, to make money. What always struck me was that sound and that rubbing of intonation, but also this immense spirit that is coming out."

The sound was joyous, a celebration, which made Jain think of "baraat," the word for an Indian wedding procession.

"But I really incorporated all the styles of music I grew up with in this band," he said. "I grew up with rock n' roll, hip hop and jazz. These are all key components for what we do."

The music fits together. Punjabi rhythms, he said, has some similarity to swing. Red Baraat's music shares a similar buoyancy to New Orleans brass music.

"All of that music from the African diasporas fits in with the music of the South Asian diasporas," he said.

Red Baraat is a fairly large musical ensemble, boasting nine players, but Jain said the point was never to create a big jazz band or even a jazz brass band with Indian rhythms.

"The goal was to create something reflective of my identity as an Indian-American."

So the band is a mix of players reflecting very diverse backgrounds playing a mix of instruments from both the East and West.

Jain said, "I was pretty specific about not just getting a bunch of jazz musicians -- that was my scene -- but I was trying to look beyond that so I could get different musical flavors and voices."

The musical fusion of Red Baraat has excited critics and crowds all over the country. The band has played clubs, concerts and festivals, including Bonnaroo earlier this month, and performed at the White House.

"We didn't play for the president," he said. "But we did play in his house as part of a philanthropic meeting of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

"It was still pretty cool."

Saturday's performers for Wine & All That Jazz are the Steve Himes Connection, 2 p.m.; Dugan Carter, 3:30 p.m.; the Bob Thompson Unit, 5 p.m.; Christian McBride & Inside Straight, 6:40 p.m. and Red Baraat, 8:30 p.m.

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.

***

The River Queen will make trips between Haddad Riverfront Park and the University of Charleston during Blues, Brews & BBQ on Friday and Wine & All That Jazz on Saturday. Admission is $3 for adults and free for children. You must have purchased or be willing to buy event tickets to exit at UC.

Friday

Leave Haddad: 7, 8:30 and 10 p.m.

Leave UC: 7:45, 9:15 and 11 p.m.

Saturday

Leave Haddad: 4, 5:30, 7, 8:30 and 10 p.m.

Leave UC: 4:45, 6:15, 7:45, 9:15 and 10:30 p.m.


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