It takes a special kind of band to make septuagenarian Minnesotans shake their hips and shoulders like teenagers, but the Brooklyn-based Bhangra Brass group Red Baraat had a sea of balding heads doing just that last night at The Cedar. Fusing the clattering, triumphant music of Northern India with the swinging second-line horns of New Orleans and a healthy dose of contemporary funk and hip-hop, Red Baraat was a raucous and joyful sight to behold.
Starting the night with their 5 brass players droning in hypnotic unison, the band’s first song transitioned into a sweetly soulful showcase for the soprano sax, until bandleader Sunny Jain began whipping his dhol at a frenzied pace. Effortlessly falling into sync, the 7-piece band ramped up the energy in a percussion-heavy rave-up that would be characteristic of most of the night. Not inclined to let his band do all the work, Jain led the crowd in spirited chants and sing-along hooks, and even attempted to teach us some dhol rhythm patterns via call-and-response. Unsurpsingly, Red Baraat’s frontman ran circles around our Midwestern tongues, but his display of phonetic fundamentals was almost as impressive as his lightening fast drumming.
Red Baraat is far from being a one-man-show however, and the synergy of their ruling horns provided much of the night’s entertainment. Trumpet player Sonny Singh brought jazz precision and a blistering display of chops to his instrument, tearing out solo after solo throughout the night. Immediately after such impressive displays, without so much as a pause for breath, Singh would launch into a sweetly impassioned vocal delivery that was definitely Red Baraat’s secret weapon.
Rounding out the brass family were MiWi La Lupa on bass trumpet and Ernest Stuart on Trombone. Between their throaty and powerful playing and their energetic stage presence, the duo made sure the spirit of New Orleans Funk was alive and kicking on stage left. Not to be outdone by Singh and Jain, La Lupa also took a turn at the mic, shaking his dreadlocks to a melodic rapped verse flavored by Jamaican dancehall cadences. Even the man with the big horn, John Altieri, joined in the fun, rapping another verse later in the night with a quintessentially New York flair.
Veering wildly from American funk styles reminiscent of contemporaries such as Menahan Street Band or Antibalas to more traditional Indian styles such as Punjabi, Red Baraat seemed to tailor the tunes to whatever got the best crowd response. Deftly navigating shifting tempos and complex polyrhythms while keeping the energy somewhere up in The Cedar’s rafters, the 7-piece group brought their set to an explosive conclusion before returning for a blazing encore. Giving the musicians one last chance to strut their stuff, this two-song finale was crossfire of shrieking trumpet solos and fiery trombone from Stuart. While the band seemed like they could keep this pace up for an eternity, they finally ended their set with crash-out of epic proportions, letting the young and merely young-at-heart finally rest those shoulders and hips.
—Zach McCormick, Cedar Intern