Red Baraat, a trailblazing band with an East-West groove that gets audiences to their feet while thrilling jazz aficionados, returns to Dartmouth as the first event in the Hop’s summer 2016 calendar and the first of its all-free, all-ages-welcome, five-event “Free For All” event series.
The most successful Indian-American band in North America, with past appearances including the White House, TED Talks and high-profile venues on both sides of the Atlantic, Red Baraat performs on Thursday, June 23, at 5:30 pm, on the Dartmouth Green at Main and Wheelock streets. The concert is preceded at 4:30 pm by a “Percussion Petting Zoo” hosted by World Music Percussion Ensemble Director and master West African drummer Hafiz Shabazz. All ages are welcome to examine and try out examples of the world’s diverse drums and percussion instruments. In case of rain, the concert is in Spaulding Auditorium and the petting zoo is in the Hop Garage, by the Courtyard Café.
Famously dubbed “the best party band in years” by NPR, Red Baraat (a baraat is a Punjabi wedding processional band, whose freewheeling spirit the group emulates) is a pioneering band from Brooklyn, New York. Led by dhol (a booming, double-headed Indian drum) player Sunny Jain, the group has garnered worldwide praise for its singular sound: a merging of hard-driving North Indian bhangra with elements of go-go, rock and jazz, fueled by three master rhythm makers and the muscle of horns. Created with no less a purposeful agenda than manifesting joy and unity in all people, Red Baraat shares its spirit and sound with audiences all over the world, as word spreads of the band’s incredibly powerful live performances.
Called by the Manchester Salon (UK) “the Hendrix of the dhol,” Jain was born in Rochester, NY, to a Punjabi family from Delhi that follows the Jain religion. He grew up in a household rich in Jain devotional music and Bollywood soundtracks, with a father who played an Indian banjo and harmonium. He also absorbed American heavy metal, R&B and more, and studied tabla with an Indian teacher while also playing jazz drums in his high school bands. He came to the dhol in 2007 while buying tablas in India, and he immediately took to its mobility and sound.
“The dhol liberates me on stage,” Jain recently told the music blog Scroll.in. “I’m not stuck on the drummer’s stool in the back. I can wear it and move around. It’s liberating in its sound which is glorious and huge. The dhol shocks you into attention! All aspects of the instrument are liberating…The tradition of Hindustani classical music is rather elitist. They don’t like the dhol. They think of it as low life, belonging to the village, a folk instrument. So I’m also liberating the dhol by profiling it so prominently!”
Red Baraat also includes top New York musicians John Altieri on sousaphone, Michael Bomwell on saxophone, Tomas Fujiwara on drums, Rohin Khemani on drums and tabla, Sonny Singh on trumpet, Ernest Stuart on trombone and Michael Williams on bass trumpet.
Jain first made his name as a rising star in the jazz world; he was awarded the designation of Jazz Ambassador by the U.S. Department of State and the Kennedy Center, and appeared regularly in the DownBeat magazine critics’ polls as he helmed his own bands and also worked with Norah Jones, Kenny Wollesen, and Kyle Eastwood. For several years, he traveled the world as a kit drummer and dhol player with the Sufi rock band Junoon, the biggest rock band to emerge from South Asia, which included high-profile benefit concerts for Pakistani flood victims and refugees and performing in the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize concert in Oslo, Norway. Jain also played in the first-ever Indian Broadway show, Bombay Dreams (2004) and made his Hollywood debut playing dhol in the movie, Accidental Husband (2008), starring Uma Thurman and Colin Firth. Others he has performed or recorded with include Asphalt Orchestra, Joey Baron, Kenny Barron, Peter Gabriel and Martha Wainwright.
In founding Red Baraat, Jain told NPR: “I just wanted a band of drums and horns that was mobile, that could jump down and get in the mix with an audience and jam. And I wanted to play more upbeat music. I wanted to play music that people could dance and party to. This was also 2008. This was when everything tanked, our economy crashed. … We were at a time where I was like, ‘You know what, I don’t want to play heady music. I want to play some really fun, riveting music that is still challenging to me and the band, but that can inspire people to move and dance and smile.’”
Two more diverse, danceable and unbelievably “feel good” bands and two classic family-friendly movies complete the Free For All series, which takes place on many Thursdays through the summer. This is the second consecutive year of the series, which is funded by the Hop’s Community Venture Initiative.
Sonny Knight & The Lakers, on Thursday, July 7: “A retro-soul blowout of epic proportions” (Blurt Magazine), veteran R&B singer Knight leads a crackling band channeling the soul of Aretha and James Brown. Starting in the 1960s, Knight had a mostly low-key, Twin Cities-based music career while supporting his family as a truck driver. The release of a compilation disc in 2012 led to his rediscovery by a new generation of musicians in love with the soul and R&B Knight sings with such joyful authority. Forming a new band with a full horn line, Knight has been winning over audiences coast to coast, delivering an authentic, powerful brand of soul music and a level of showmanship rarely seen these days. At 4:30 pm, make simple crafts in a “makerspace” tent hosted by the Hop’s Woodworking and Jewelry workshops.
De Temps Antan, on Thursday, August 4: Playing and singing a driving, high-energy version of traditional Québécois music, De Temps Antan combines fiddle, accordion, harmonica, guitar, bouzouki and more, played by Éric Beaudry, André Brunet and Pierre-Luc Dupuis—three young virtuosos who blend boundless energy, a genre-crossing love of many types of music, and the intoxicating joie de vivre that’s built into Québécois music. At 4:30 pm, let Revels North Artistic Director Nils Fredland—one of Vermont’s most irresistible dance callers—teach you the basics of Québécois stepdancing in a fun, accessible dance workshop.
The two free, family-friendly films are Finding Nemo (2003), on Thursday, July 21, an animated feature about a plucky clownfish and his devoted dad; and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), on Thursday, August 11, the endearing musical starring Gene Wilder as the sweet but inscrutable chocolate mogul determining which children do and don’t morally measure up.