Sonny Singh is a trumpet player, dhol player and vocalist, educator/activist, and writer based in Brooklyn, New York.
Sonny’s first musical outlet was singing and playing harmonium in gurdwaras, Sikh houses of worship, as a young child in North Carolina. He began playing the trumpet at age 9 and has since played in a variety of types of bands including rock, ska/reggae, South Asian fusion, funk, bhangra, and hip hop.
In Tucson, AZ he co-founded and fronted the popular local ska band Turban Jones from 1997-2001, which released two albums of original material. In 2003, Sonny co-founded the acclaimed genre-bending political rock band Outernational in NYC, and sang, played trumpet, dhol, and harmonium in the group until April 2008. While in Outernational, Sonny shared the stage with notable artists such as Tom Morello, Ozomatli, Serj Tankian, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Talvin Singh, and DJ Spooky. The band also signed to Warner Brothers Records and recorded 14 songs produced by Tom Morello for the debut album.
Currently, Sonny fires up thousands around the country and world playing trumpet and singing in the 9-piece bhangra funk band, Red Baraat, the first and only dhol n’ brass band in the US. In the short time since the band’s inception, they have delivered blistering performances at venues and festivals throughout the world including Bonnaroo (TN), the Barbican (London, UK), Montreal Jazz Festival, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Beaches International Jazz Festival (Toronto, ON), Ottawa Blues Festival (Canada), Pori Jazz Festival (Finland), and LinzFest (Linz, Austria).
Sonny also plays dhol at weddings, baraats, parties, fundraisers, and rallies/protests and performs and records on trumpet, dhol, and/or vocals with a number of artists from diverse genres including Sxip Shirey, Arooj Aftab, Mandeep Sethi, Gabriel Teodros, and Mahina Movement.
Sonny has been active in movements for social and economic justice since high school. He received his Master’s Degree in Social Justice Education at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 2003, where he studied and practiced the art of using education as a tool for liberation. Since moving to NYC in 2003, Sonny has worked in the labor movement for the union UNITE HERE, was a Community Organizer at the Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP), a Community Organizer at the Sikh Coalition, and a Humane Education Instructor with HEART. Sonny was also a member of the Left Turn Magazine collective and regularly writes on social justice issues for a variety of publications including the Huffington Post, The Langar Hall, Colorlines, Sikh Chic, Left Turn, and the Asian American Literary Review.
Sonny has been designing and facilitating workshops and classes related to issues of oppression and strategies for creating social justice for over a decade. Examples of classes and or workshops he has facilitated include:
- Fight the Power! An Introduction to Organizing for Social Change
- Unlearning Racism
- Intersections of Oppression
- Education for Liberation
- Community Organizing 101 for Sikhs
- Social Issues in Education: Heterosexism (weekend workshop)
- Exploring Differences and Common Ground: Dialogue on Gender and Sexism (semester long class)
- The Sikh Revolution: Sikhism and Social Justice
- Ending Bias-based Bullying in Schools
- Post-9/11 Backlash Violence
- and many others on topics such as advocacy and campaign skills, organizing strategies, anti-oppression, popular education facilitation, music and social justice, and more.