album reviews

Red Baraat
Shruggy Ji
Sinj (2013)

Kindred spirits: Antibalas, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Ozomatli.

A party groove that never ends

Bhangra music and horns may seem like an odd combination, but Brooklyn party band Red Baraat mixes the two in a style it calls "dhol 'n' brass", after a double-sided North Indian drum called a dhol.

The band's second album, "Shruggy Ji", captures the Eastern influence of bhangra and the Western brass sounds of jazz and funk.

The band's founder and leader is dhol player and vocalist Sunny Jain, but the horns create some of the most memorable moments on the album, which isn't surprising given that six of the nine band members play a brass instrument. Featuring two saxophones, two trumpets, a trombone, and a surprisingly audible sousaphone, the track "Burning Instinct" has a skittering melody so catchy that it begs to be listened to on repeat.

Red Baraat's greatest asset is its energy. There's a reason this group has been called a "party band". With their joyously uptempo rhythms, the songs are easy to dance to, and Jain's commands of "Let’s party!" and "Say yeah-yeah-yeah!" on the song "F.I.P." would certainly translate well to the stage.

But there's something about the album's perpetual party groove that gets tedious. Each song's relentless beat and invariant volume gives "Shruggy Ji" an unfortunate sense of monotony, making these melodies feel far more repetitive than they actually are.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 18 January 2013.
.: Shruggy Ji on