When you talk hot sauce, Tabasco, Mexican poblano peppers or Thai chili come to mind. But any talk of singed tongue seasoning includes the mandatory South Asia mention. Today’s sonic nod looks to heat of a Punjabi flavor.
Red Baraat and DJ Rekha bring Bhangra brass and beat to Bleeker Street on Saturday to celebrate the Indian holiday of Holi, a day that traditionally signals the end of winter with a colorful party and bonfire. With them they celebrate this city’s Bollywood soundtrack to local nightlife. South Asian clarinet and percussion get inspired by New Orleans jazz, DC go-go, and dance music.
Dancing to Bhangra in New York City has become a common club outing thanks to DJ Rekha’s Basement Bhangra party, held for more than a decade gracing spots like SOBs and Brooklyn Bowl where she blends dancehall, hip hop and Latin rhythms with traditional North Indian and Pakistani music.
Red Baraat is the only brass band of its kind on this continent, made up of traditional Punjabi drums, including the double-sided dhol, alongside trombone, trumpet, and tuba in a spicy version of marching procession. The band honors traditional Indian and Pakistani rhythms adding chant and peppering brass and beats with guttural punches. Like any good brass band, Red Baraat keeps the party upbeat and mobile. But they sound like the drum line could include snake charmers and maybe a royal elephant with belly dancers perched above. Leader Sunny Jain sings a Sufi song with band members on backups, delivering the sound of an Indian village wedding party. Then trumpet player MiWi La Lupa comes in on the next piece in English, singing and rapping over a funk and jazz concoction. It’s a cultural curry that has taken them out of Brooklyn and onto stages across North America to Europe, packing a brass band sack lunch of Bhangra funk nasty.