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Red Baraat: A Bhangra-Powered Party Starter

Red Baraat is wild — and loud. It's also a genre unto itself. The Brooklyn ensemble self-identifies as "dhol 'n' brass," a hybrid of Indian bhangra and New Orleans big-band music.

The group has played everywhere from the White House to the Bonnaroo festival, and its marathon live shows have become the kind of sweaty sensation that packs rock clubs. Limited to horns and percussion, Red Baraat is led by Sunny Jain on the dhol, a barrel-shaped Punjabi drum that's played on both sides. Jain says he's never found himself wishing for a guitar solo to fill space.

"For whatever reason, we're crazy loud, and our energy is like that of a rock band," he says. "So it's not like you're ever really missing anything."

Red Baraat's latest album, Shruggy Ji, came out this week. Jain discusses it here with NPR's Rachel Martin.


Interview Highlights

On becoming a bandleader

"It was definitely different and a challenge for me in terms of, 'OK, now I'm up front. I have to actually say something and do something up here besides just bang on the drum.' The idea of the band is that the spotlight shifts. It's not the typical, 'Here's a singer and here's a band surrounding the singer.' I don't even consider myself a singer, to be honest. Everyone is really coming into the spotlight."

On the energy of Red Baraat's live shows

"We've got some songs in Hindi, we've got some in Punjabi, and then there's various kind of Punjabi yell-outs and enthusiastic cheer-ons that you hear. I'm oftentimes just yelling and grunting throughout our performance, yelling things to the other guys like, 'Come in with the backgrounds!' ... [Given] the physicality of playing the dhol, you can't help but just have this animal instinct come out."

On the go-go-inspired title track

"Go-go music, it was a groove that just made so much sense, that just really linked up with bhangra music and jazz music. I mean, it's got that swing and that buoyancy. So a lot of the rhythms that we're playing — essentially the drum-set pattern — they're all borrowing from that language."

Copyright 2013 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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