Red Baraat, an eight-piece brass and percussion band from Brooklyn, has been in New Orleans so often lately that you’d think it’s a local band.
During the 2013 Mardi Gras season, Red Baraat played a Sunday headlining gig at the Blue Nile; returned to the Blue Nile for a Lundi Gras show with Galactic; paraded on Mardi Gras day; and performed that night at the Hi-Ho-Lounge with the Mardi Gras Indians Orchestra.
Red Baraat’s first Carnival in New Orleans was super cool, “a totally full, fun-packed weekend celebration,” group founder Sunny Jain said last week from Brooklyn.
Following its showcase performances at the South By Southwest Music and Media Conference in Austin, Red Baraat returns to New Orleans on Sunday for an appearance at the Congo Square New World Rhythms Festival.
The group will play shortly after the Stooges Brass Band, a New Orleans band that Red Baraat got to know through the festival circuit. “The Stooges are friends of ours and we love their playing,” Jain said.
Seeing Red Baraat, with its players holding trumpets, trombone, saxophone, sousaphone and percussion instruments, the ensemble more than resembles a New Orleans brass band.
The inspiration for Red Baraat, however, comes from a traditional Indian wedding procession called the baraat.
In this musical, celebratory procession, the groom is accompanied through the streets by his family, friends and, of course, a band of brass and percussion instruments.
Baraat music blends Indian and European influences. Brass instruments arrived in India from England during the colonial period.
“The baraat musicians transfer their Indian rhythms and melodies to these Western instruments, horns and snare drums and things like that,” said Jain, a New York native whose parents are from India.
A baraat band also features the native dhol, a barrel-shaped, double-sided drum struck by two sticks.
“That’s what I was familiar with from going to India and seeing it in the streets,” Jain said.
A modern jazz drummer for much of his career, Jain first hung a dhol from his shoulders during a trip to New Dehli in 2001.
“It’s literally just skin and wood,” he said. “And it hangs right at the gut so, when you hit it, the resonance infiltrates your soul. This instrument is so loud and primal.”
Jain was not well-acquainted with New Orleans brass band music when he formed Red Baraat in 2008. He’d never even been to the city.
“But when people started making a correlation between New Orleans brass bands and Red Baraat, I started checking it out and, yeah, you definitely hear that sound and that energy and the vibe. I almost think of Red Baraat and the brass bands of New Orleans as first cousins.”
Red Baraat made its New Orleans debut at the Jazz and Heritage Festival in 2011. It returned for a Voodoo Music + Arts Experience set and a show at Tipitina’s.
Mardi Gras 2013 was its fourth visit
“After the first time we went there,” Jain said, “half us in the band were like, ‘Man, we should just move to New Orleans.’ We’ve been fortunate that the community has almost adopted us. It’s a beautiful thing. To me, it just kind of indicates that universality of music.”