On Stage: Red Baraat brings Bhangra to America

Pin It

By Denny DyroffStaff Writer, The Times

Red Baraat

A lot of music musicians and bands claim to be unique but most fail to live up to that claim.

Red Baraat, which is headlining a show on March 23 at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com), doesn’t claim to be unique – even though the band truly is.

It is safe to say that there is no other band in America like Red Baraat.

Brooklyn-based Red Baraat is a Bhangra band — and a whole lot more. Bhangra is party-style folk music from the Punjab regions of India and Pakistan.

Red Baraat’s founder and leader in Sunny Jain, a New York jazz musician of Indian descent whose main instrument is the dhol (a double-headed drum from India).

“I had been playing drums and tabla before I started playing dhol,” said Jain, during a phone interview Tuesday morning from his home in New York.

“One time when I was in India, I was in a shop buying a tabla. I saw a dhol there and decided to buy one. I took lessons in New York and instantly fell in love with it.

“It was a great feeling because I wasn’t confined to a drum set. And, with the drum hanging at your gut, the sound resonates through your entire body.

“My family are Jains from Punjab so I grew up listening to music that had dhol in it. I did a lot of learning how to play it by watching dhol performances on YouTube. I also listened to old recordings — especially Pappa Saen, who was a Sufi dhol player.”

Red Baraat is an eight-piece band featuring: Sunny Jain – dhol; Rohin Khemani – percussion; Chris Eddleton – drumset; Jonathan Goldberger – guitar; Jonathon Haffner – soprano sax; Sonny Singh – trumpet; Darius Christian Jones – trombone and Steve Duffy – sousaphone.

The band’s influences extend beyond bhangra and include jazz, Latin, funk, brass band and Bollywood.

“I wanted to play something that was upbeat and joyful,” said Jain, who is a respected drum and percussion player in the New York jazz scene.

“It was just another project of mine — drums and a brass band with no guitar and no electric instruments. That changed when we added Jonathan Goldeberger on guitar.

“I wanted horns, drums and sousaphone. I didn’t want jazz musicians. I didn’t want it to be perceived as a jazz project. I wanted smaller, tighter songs. And, I wanted it to be mobile so we could get down into the audience and play there too.”

Red Baraat has released six albums. The most recent is “Bhangra Pirates.”  The album has similar song titles to those on a previous album “Gaadi of Truth,” which now no longer exists.

“I worked on ‘Bhangra Pirates’ in the fall of 2016,” said Jain. “I got it together within a few months. The material on it came from a digital EP ‘Live Wire,’ some songs that were never recorded before and some from ‘Gaadi of Truth,’ which we have withdrawn from the catalog.

“For the last two-and-a-half years, we’ve had a guitarist in the group and people wanted a recording by this band. All the songs in our repertoire took on new shape when we added guitar.

“We added guitar and then remixed and remastered everything. I didn’t realize how excited I was at the change in sound until we went back in the studio. Four of the songs from ‘Gaadi’ were replaced by four from the digital EP.”

Listening to the originals back-to-back with the versions on “Bhangra Pirates,” Red Baraat’s new direction becomes obvious.

Bhangra Pirates” (Rhyme & Reason Records), which will be released on March 24, reflects a more evolved and elaborate sound developed over the last two years of heavy touring and the addition of a full-time guitar player.  

The new album is the first release to represent this updated version of the ensemble that is well- known for its consistent experimentation, innovation, and ability to develop raw energy by pulling the best elements of trial and error.

“It took me about four months to do it,” said Jain. “I was working feverishly – bouncing files back-and-forth for months. I’ve also made some changes with the dhol. I’m processing it through reverb and then processing it through delays and phasers.

“Adding guitar made a big difference.  I had known Jonathan for a while. At that point, we were experimenting with bringing in a chordal instrument.

“After that, I decided that we needed a guitar in the group. We auditioned a lot of guitarists and Jonathan was the one. He can play jazz and he understands Indian music.

“With the old lineup, there was too much of an acoustic sound. It didn’t have the energy I wanted it to have. Our producer Dave Sharma produced it more like rock and that made me feel more alive.

“Musically, we keep expanding the sonic territory. We’re expanding the palate of what this band is. Where we’re headed is opening up more sonic explorations. We play bhangra, Indian jazz, Punjabi music and so much more.”

Red Baraat presents a musical smorgasbord that keeps adding new dishes all the time.

“‘Bhangra Pirates’ marks a growth for us as our acoustic instrumentation evolves into new sonic spaces,” said Jain. “The process was so incredibly inspiring. We’re super excited for this album and think it’s our best yet.

“Spontaneity and improvisation are at the heart of playing our music, but moreover, the energy of the crowd is something we feed off. The purpose of Red Baraat is to bring joy and togetherness — to take people on a journey and let our music fill the room and do all the talking.”

The show Thursday night, which is part of Red Baraat’s “Festival of Colors’ in honor of India’s Holi festival, features South Indian vocalist Ganavya and Pakistani punk band The Kominas as opening acts.

Video link for Red Baraat – https://youtu.be/rjIO8BKk9nE.

The show at the World Café Live will start at 8 p.m. act. Tickets are $18 in advance and $20 day of show.

Other upcoming shows at the World Café Live are Dirty Dozen Brass Band on March 24, Leonard Cohen Tribute Concert on March 25, Jonatha Brooke on March 26, Holly Bowling on March 28, Tift Merritt on March 29 and the T Sisters on March 29.

Alex Seaver of MAKO

Also on March 23, a very different but equally intriguing style of music will be performed when MAKO brings its “Run for Your Life Tour” to Underground Arts (1200 Callowhill Street, Philadelphia, http://undergroundarts.org).

To hear MAKO now is to witness the project at a creative crossroads — a trip four years in the making. The music side of MAKO is provided by frontman/songwriter/vocalist Alex Seaver. He is joined by Logan Light, an L.A.-based EDM deejay.

MAKO is touring in support of its debut album “Hourglass,” which was released December 9, 2016 via Ultra Music. Light is not joining Seaver on this tour.

“Logan is also a lawyer,” said Seaver, during a phone interview Monday afternoon as he travelled from Vermont to a gig in Boston. “He’s not touring with me because he’s in New York right now doing work as a lawyer.”

The story of MAKO is the story of Seaver’s journeys – his geographical journey from California to New York and back to California and his musical journey from classical music to EDM (electronic dance music) to pop and indie rock.

Seaver, a multi-faceted, classically trained musician graduated from the prestigious Juilliard School in New York City

“I grew up in San Diego and wanted to go to college at Julliard ever since I was a freshman in high school,” said Seaver. “I was a classical French horn performance major.

“Everything was going as planned and then I changed courses when I was deeper in. I was inspired by movie music.”

So, when Seaver graduated from Julliard he headed back out west – to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film composing.”

“I met Logan the first week I was in L.A.,” said Seaver. “Rob Light, his dad, and my dad were roommates at Syracuse University and remained friends ever since.

“Rob worked in the music industry as an agent. So, I called to meet with him to see if he could help me get started in movie music. He brought his son (Logan) to our dinner meeting and we became friends.

“Actually, there is a photo of Logan and me together when we were little kids but neither of us remembered ever meeting the other. When I met him this time, Logan was a deejay and I was totally ignorant of EDM.”

Light was building a name for himself as a deejay and had enough momentum in his career to attain opening slots for EDM giants Tiësto and Avicii.

“Logan took me to the Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas,” said Seaver. “That was my introduction to EDM and I became a big fan. I really love big, epic, dramatic music with a lot of emotion.

“I was blown away by how young people reacted to EDM. They really got into it. I was used to the more reserved classical music audiences. With EDM, the fans are really intense”

Seaver was thrown headfirst into the electronic music world and the two friends formed MAKO.

Before long, MAKO became one of the hottest acts in the electronic music world. The duo’s first release, “Beam,” amassed more than 25 million online views and streams. SiriusXM quickly jumped on board, anointing them “the next big thing,” and the rest of the electronic musical community followed suit.

MAKO have since worked alongside many top artists, including Avicii and Steve Angello. Additionally, Seaver has scored music for and worked alongside League of Legends/Riot Games on a variety of projects. He also has scored for independent film, television and several commercials.

“I really saturated myself with EDM,” said Seaver. “Now, I’m going back a little.”

With “Hourglass,” MAKO bid farewell to its former style of dance floor burners and hands-in-the-air beats with an evolved sound — sincere, story-based songwriting; cinematic arrangements and orchestral instrumentation; and indie rock stylings….all while retaining key electronic elements.

“I made ‘Hourglass’ in my humble studio in North Hollywood,” said Seaver. “I did it mostly in the box. It was about a two-year project from start-to-finish.

“I had never done it before. I needed to work on tracks, get away from them for a few months and then go back and work on them more.”

“With some of the orchestration I used, I was trying to get back to my roots. Combining classical music with EDM is something I’ve done. I’m interested in bridging the gap.”

Video link for MAKO – https://youtu.be/tL1dv6ecRrg?list=PLJYj-okQgiiIB3c9faeW7631zwx-aCICz.

The show at Underground Arts, which has Agent Zero as the opener, will start at 10 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance and $18 at the door.

Other upcoming shoes at Underground Arts are Tractorbear on March 24, David Uosikkinen’s In the Pocket featuring Richard Bush (The A’s), Fran Smith, Jr. (The Hooters) Wally Smith (Smash Palace) on March 25, Beb Rexha on March 26 and The Architects on March 27.

The area concert line-up for March 23 also includes another very interesting, non-mainstream show featuring HNRY FLWR at the

Barbary (951 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-634-7400, www.facebook.com/thebarbary).


HNRY FLWR is the creator of “The Message.” In 2014 HNRY FLWR began mixing different length sound waves using ancient synthesizers and a team of musical experts to create a type of music that is 100% earnest.

According to HNRY FLWR, before this method of sound control, music was an insincere endeavor solely energized by a pure form of propulsion known as narcissism.

The HNRY FLWR B(r)and was discovered and founded by Hugh “Blaze” Boylan of Blaze B. Mgmt. HNRY FLWR’s debut EP “Flowerama” will be released in June on Paper Garden Records. HNRY FLWR and Boylan are one-and-the-same and, at the same time, separate beings.

“HNRY FLWR is sort of an entity,” said Boylan, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from his home in Brooklyn, New York.

“He’s like this pure vessel for the music to go through. He’s completely detached from the business side of things and that’s where Blaze comes in. HNRY FLWR is a band and it’s a brand.

“And, it’s trying to accept the fact that to be a musician today, you can’t just play on a porch. You need to be an aesthetic artist and write better songs.”

With the wide range of modern electronics, opting for vintage synthesizers might seem like a strange choice.

“With ancient synthesizers, the sounds are an attempt to be cosmic,” said Boylan.

“Old synthesizers have an ancient feeling to them. That limitation is the key to losing yourself in the sound process.  You end up expressing yourself digitally.

“At a certain point, you have to remember why pop music in the 60s was so timeless. It seems like no-one today is making timeless music.”

Boylan’s childhood was spent in Belgium, Switzerland, Iowa, North Carolina and finally Connecticut. His high school days were spent in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Boylan went to college in New Haven and it was there that he started his first band.

“I had been in a bunch of rock projects and sweaty, alt-rock rock-and-roll party bands,” said Boylan. “That phase ended when it didn’t feel like me anymore.

“The creation of HNRY FLWR was to listen and to be aware – to put on a show that’s sensitive and honest. It changed my life.

“You can’t have another Iggy Pop or another David Bowie. That’s already been done. What is needed right now is this pure empathetic, very real, very open rock music. This project is genuine. It’s beautiful.”

The touring band features Abdon Valdez III (Hellbirds) on drums, Connor Grant (GOASTT) on keyboard and guitar, Max Currier (Absolutely Yours) on bass and HNRY FLWR on vocals and guitar.

Video link for HNRY FLWR — https://vimeo.com/208542742.

The show at the Barbary, which also features The Ferdy Mayne, Kodiak Park and Elison Jackson, will start at 7:45 p.m. Tickets are $7 in advance and $10 at the door.

Tim O’Brien

Tim O’Brien is celebrating the March 31 release of his new album “Where The River Meets The Road” with series of live shows, including a show on March 24 at the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com).

O’Brien was born and raised in Wheeling, West Virginia. When he was young, he got introduced to country and bluegrass music by listening to WWVA (1170 khz., Wheeling) and WSM (650 khz., Nashville). He eventually relocated to Boulder, Colorado and now lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

 “Where The River Meets The Road” brings O’Brien full circle in some ways.  All 12 album tracks are connected to West Virginia.

“It’s a return to form,” said O’Brien, during a phone interview Wednesday morning while he was travelling on I-40 from Nashville to a show March 23 in Richmond, Virginia.

“I’m focusing on West Virginia and my involvement with where I’m from. I’ve tried to show the breadth of the music from the state.

“I cut the album at a studio in Nashville – The Butcher Shop. I’ve used that studio for my last few albums. I work with my good buddy Dave Ferguson as producer.

“I came home from the road last October and decided I should make a record. It was a concept album dedicated to music from West Virginia.

“Living there, I was definitely influenced by its culture. It was fun to look back at my influences. It’s kind of cool to connect all those dots.

“I only wrote two songs on this record because I wanted to focus on other people from the state. My song ‘Guardian Angel’ was about growing up in Wheeling.

“The other original ‘Where the River Meets the Road’ — is about my great grandfather who emigrated from Ireland in 1851 and moved to Wheeling.”

O’Brien, who was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in 2013, worked with the Hall on the selection of the album’s other 10 tracks.

“I saw a lot of that music live,” said O’Brien. “WWVA was great because I could go down and watch the acts up-close.

“When I was young, I used to go to WWVA’s live broadcast every Saturday night from the Capitol Theater in Wheeling. I loved Roger Miller. Then, I got inspired to play fiddle by watching Merle Haggard.”

O’Brien left Wheeling in his late teens and eventually decided to live in the clean mountain air of Boulder, Colorado. It was in Boulder that he co-founded the progressive bluegrass band Hot Rize.

Hot Rize’s eponymous album debut came out in 1979 and has been followed by another seven albums. “Where the River Meets the Road” O’Brien’s 16th solo release. His first solo release was “Hard Year Blues” in 1984.

“I’m still recording regularly – and I tour a lot,” said O’Brien. “Right now, I’m going to Richmond and then I’m heading your way – rolling, rolling on these rubber wheels.

“I mostly do weekend tours. I could play four days a week but I need to do the laundry and walk the dogs.

“Bluegrass is kind of a niche just like folk music is kind of a niche. It’s best to play on a weekend night to full up the show because those audiences don’t go out much on weekday nights

“I’ve played the Sellersville Theater a couple times. I played there with Hot Rize and played there on my own. Now, my partner Jan is singing with me. I play guitar, banjo, fiddle and mandolin and I have a pretty female to sing – Jan Fabricius.

“The record sale table at shows is always the main retailer for my music. Bluegrass fans want to support their favorites as much as possible because they know that acts make the most money of the albums if they’re bought live.

“I need to keep making albums for my fans. I like to keep things coming and keep them real. Bluegrass is so diverse these days. But, people still mainly want something that’s rootsy and honest.”

Video link for Tim O’Brien – https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=62db5rMc2ns.

The show at Sellersville, which has Danny Burns as the opening act, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 and $40.

Other upcoming shows at Sellersville are Commander Cody along with Jack Murray & The Blue Tarp Wranglers on March 23, Beru Revue on March 25, and Time Traveller on March 26.

The King and I

“The King and I” is running now through April 2 at the Academy of Music (Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia, 215-731-3333, www.kimmelcenter.org) as part of the Kimmel Center’s “Broadway Philadelphia” series.

One of the all-time great American musicals, it is based on Margaret Landon’s 1944 novel “Anna and the King of Siam” and derived from the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam in the early 1860s.

The musical tells the story of the unconventional and tempestuous relationship that develops between the King of Siam and Anna. It is a romantic comedy that also speaks to culture clashes — how people are polarized.

The lively show also features songs that have become standards such as “Hello Young Lovers,” “I Whistle a Happy Tune,” “Shall We Dance?” and “Getting to Know You.”

Video links for “The King & I” – https://youtu.be/zp0gUMykOO4 and https://youtu.be/TGPdfosMrqc.

The show, which has both matinee and evening performances, will sit down in Philly through April 2 at the Academy of Music. Ticket prices range from $20-$125.

The Candlelight Theater (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org), which was dark for a few months because of renovations, is now up and running again.

The new production is the timeless classic “Camelot,” the story of King Arthur, Queen Guinevere and Sir Lancelot. The show will run through April 23.

Performances are Friday and Saturday evenings (doors 6 p.m./show, 8 p.m.) and Sunday afternoons (doors, 1 p.m./show, 3 p.m.). There will also be performances on March 29 at 11 a.m., April 13 at 6 p.m. and April 19 at 11 a.m.

Tickets, which include dinner and show, are $60 for adults and $33 for children (ages 4-12).

John Eddy

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will host John Eddie and His Dirty Ol’ Band on March 24, and Jeffrey Gaines and Ben Arnold on March 25.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will have

Deb Callahan and The Holts on March 23.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) will host Herman and Friends Spring Music Showcase on March 24.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will present Pimps of Joytime and Swift Technique on March 23, Splintered Sunlight with special guest Natalie Cressman on March 25, Will Power – Tower of Power Tribute on March 26 and Galway Guild with special guest The Whiskey Trail Band on March 29.

Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547, www.burlapandbean.com) will present Joseph Parsons and Jess Klein on March 23, Chris Trapper with Jennifer Kimball on March 24, and Billy Penn Burger and Katherine Rondeau on March 25.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents Trace Adkins on March 23, The Temptations and The Four Tops on March 25, and Rick Steves on March 26.

Share this post:

Related Posts

Comments are closed.