Music Review: Red Baraat - Sound the People

By Samir Shukla

Red Baraat
Sound the People
(Rhyme & Reason Records)

Dhol maestro and bandleader Sunny Jain and company return again with a jovial recording of Punjabi folk, bhangra, and dance music stitched with horns and good times. Red Baraat began as a band accompanying wedding processions (baraat) and over the years has become renowned for their funky recordings and rousing live shows. The band has tightened the sound paring down from an eight piece to a six piece ensemble. The newest recording, Sound the People, comes stacked with nine unique tracks.

The album features guests Heems (Das Racist / Swet Shop Boys), Pakistani singer Ali Sethi, comedian John Hodgman and poet/activist Suheir Hammad.

The song “Next Level" kicks off the album with its spunky horns and the dhol rolling right along. “Kala Mukhra (ft. Ali Sethi)" is a take on legendary Pakistani singer Iqbal Bano's “Gora Mukhra" (white face) where the band changed the lyrics to Kala (black) to intone the brown ethos of the band and commentary on contemporary social mores. The band offers a cover in the instrumental version of the song from the movie of the same name “Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai" (It's my friend's wedding), which is apropos since Red Baraat began as a wedding band.

“Vibrations (ft. Suheir Hammad)" is spoken word poetry with the band laying down a background track. The title track “Sound the People" (featuring Heems) is a mix of hip hop and the band's Punjabi folk punch with politically-charged lyrics and the band sounding full and in charge. “Moray Gari Suno" is an instrumental with a tropical, island feel.

“Ghadar Machao" is a call to activism with Punjabi and Spanish lyrics with the horns leading the charge. Another classic Bollywood song is given the Red Baraat treatment in the classic song from the film Sholay, “Holi Ke Din," which brings out memories of playing Holi and dancing in the streets with horns and the dhol bringing the party. The album closes with “Punjaub March (ft. John Hodgman)" an eclectic number that's bit of acquired taste with jarring horns and percussion wrapped with a carnival-like barker/preacher rambling.