Red Baraat - Shruggy Ji
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Red Baraat
Shruggy Ji
Jaro Medien (

While Sunny Jain is of Indian heritage, his band Red Baraat has a brassy funk that sounds like it is straight out of New Orleans. He hasn't exactly invented a new genre since they are the only ones doing this unlikely hybrid of North Indian bhangra, but the bands music is pretty damn unique. The songs on Shruggy Ji are Indian melodies grafted onto a New Orleans-style brass and rhythm section, albeit one that is powered in part by a two-headed dhol drum. Eschewing rock instrumentation, they still conjure up enough electricity to put most rock bands to shame. Particularly in concert, the band is all about banging out big fat, funky beats.

While to American ears the bands brass section sounds like its marching through the French Quarter, the brass is also rooted in the post-colonial Indian tradition of the baraat, an exuberant wedding day march from the grooms house to the brides.

Jain started his musical career as a jazz percussionist, organizing the Sunny Jain Collective. To play at a friends Indian wedding, Jain formed a percussion group of pros and amateurs to great success. In the Indian community, the word got out about the performance and Jain started getting calls to play at other weddings. The group pared down to a more stable line-up, then evolved into a real band performing original compositions and playing at clubs and performing arts venues for multi-culti crowds who got the word. With Shruggy Ji, Jain and company establish their unique if familiar-seeming sound.

On the first cut, "Halla Bol," the band comes roaring out of the gate, and never quite slows down; no ballads here. On the title song, the band announces itself with some slow, ominous horns and then the percussion jumps in with some signature powerful funk rhythms, eventually making way for a good-natured rap accompaniment. The serious cymbal-crashing of "Private Dancer" also features rap-style lets-party vocals over some slow rolling funk. "Apna Punjab Hove" has a bit of a reggae upbeat for a change of pace on an album that mostly is unrelentingly high-energy.

While the members take turns with some vocals of the put your hands in the air/go crazy type, mostly they let the brass do their talking, always ushered along with the locked and loaded rhythms of the dhol and other percussion.

While Shruggy Ji gives a hint of the well-organized chaos of their live shows, Red Baraat is still best sampled at one of their sweaty dance parties of a concert. Their big brass sound and even bigger percussion needs a big hall for the band to really find itself home. - Marty Lipp

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