Music Review: Red Baraat - Bhangra Pirates

By Samir Shukla

Red Baraat
Bhangra Pirates

Red Baraat is a rollicking dhol 'n' brass band that can get the sleepiest crowd shaking their booty and moving their feet with leader Sunny Jain's first beats on his dhol. The band's interaction with the audience when performing live, including jumping in the middle of the dancing mass and leading them around like pied pipers, only fuses that connection further. The diverse musicians combine their individual specialties into the Red Baraat alchemy, constantly experimenting and expanding the possibilities of their sound.

Red Baraat is back with their third recording Bhangra Pirates. The album is bhangra (that unmistakable beat of the dhol), New Orleans brass, rock, jazz improv, Bollywood kitsch, and hints of hip hop all rolled into Red Baraat's wholly original sound. This time around there is the added layer of a guitarist while Jain also infuses effects into his dhol beats for an occasional whirling sound. The brass section is tighter than ever as are the percussionists.

The fluid instrumental “Horizon Line" kicks off the album while the title track “Bhangra Pirates" begins with the dhol and guitar leading the horn section to kick open the dance doors goaded on by a mix of Hindi and English lyrics. It's too infectious to sit still through. “Bhangale" (feat. Delicate Steve) is a scat-filled number while “Se Hace Camino" is a Latin and bhangra blend. The songs can wander and skitter off into all sorts of angular sounds.

There are two rockers on the album that benefit with the added guitar including “Zindabad," a skewed wedding march-like song that turns into a jazz scorcher and returns home halfway through with a decidedly Punjabi twist. The other is “Gaadi of Truth," clearly the most rocking song on the record with guitar riffs sparring with the horns and percussion.

“Tunak Tunak Tun" is a scats-laden take on Daler Mehndi's hit song.

“Rang Barse" is the Red Baraat version of the classic Amitabh Bachchan song. It begins as a jazz and Indian classical swirl that dives into a percussive instrumental mélange. The cut is interspersed with the horns going in and out of the mix, turning it into a long jam.

“Akhiyan Udeek Diyan" is a lingering showcase for the musicians as individual players do their solo bits and melt back into the groove.

“Layers" is an experimental track that flows on its own accord and nicely wraps up the record.