Red Baraat on NPR’s Tiny Desk and on the road

Red Baraat had the pleasure of performing a Tiny Desk concert in the NPR office of Bob Boilen and All Songs Considered last week before our packed show at U Street Music Hall in DC. NPR just posted our full acoustic performance.

I’ll be on the road a bunch this Spring with Red Baraat, starting next week with California. We’ll be playing in the Bay area for the first time on Thursday, 2/23 at Slim’s in San Francisco, then on 2/24 in Santa Cruz, and 2/25 in Los Angeles. On March 2-3rd we’ll be at the Carnival on the Mile Festival in Miami, and then return for a big Holi festival in NYC at Le Poisson Rouge.  In April, we’ll be all over the Midwest and the South. Check out all the details on the shows page, and hope to see you soon!

Peace out 2011

What a year it has been! People are rising up all over the world, demanding fundamental change in their societies, practicing direct democracy, and creating alternatives to the oppressive status quo. As 2011 comes to a close I am inspired and excited about what regular, every day people have accomplished this year, from Tunisia and Egypt to Wisconsin and Wall Street.

Making music and making change go hand in hand for many of us, and I’m eager for another year of creating joyful sounds with Red Baraat and many other friends and collaborators. I have a bunch of shows coming up in January– check out the schedule here.

I’ve also done a lot of writing this past year for The Langar Hall blog where I am a regular contributor as well as a number of other outlets including the Asian American Literary Review, the Huffington Post, Left Turn, The Big Ceci, Sikh Chic, and In Front and Center: Critical Voices in the 99%, a blog I co-founded.  Here are a few of my favorites from this year:

Working for Langar Justice
The Langar Hall, 1/14/11 and at The Big Ceci

The Divisive Taboo of Halal for Sikhs
The Langar Hall, 2/22/11 and at

The Death of Bin Laden & the Soul of the USA
The Langar Hall, 5/13/11

Khuli Dhari: My Journey to Beard Liberation
The Langar Hall, 8/2/11 and at SikhNet.

Healing the trauma of post-9/11 racism one story (and melody) at a time
Asian American Literary Review, 9/11/11 (order journal here) and posted online at Left Turn

Wall Street Sikhs, Corporate Tyranny, and the 99%
The Langar Hall, 10/4/11

We Are One: LGBT Rights and Guru Nanak’s Legacy of Inclusion
Huffington Post, 11/10/11

A complete list of links to my writing can be found here.  Thanks to everyone who reads these words, posts links, and engages in the conversation.  Your feedback and support is much of what keeps me writing down all the thoughts and feelings swirling around in my head and heart.

And finally, here are a couple of new videos to share with you all — one performing with hip hop artist Mandeep Sethi at Lahir: Move the Movement a few weeks back; the other performing with Arooj Aftab in this trailer for the Rebuild Pakistan series that I’m honored to be a part of.   Happy New Year, and see you soon!

Article of Faith

Some of my work and my story are featured in a new short film called Article of Faith, one of 11 films selected for this year’s Media that Matters film festival.  Directed by Christina Antonakos-Wallace, this 10 minute film is a part of a larger documentary film project she is working on called With Wings and Roots, which features the stories of five 2nd generation immigrants in NYC and Berlin.

I’m hopeful that sharing my story in this way will be helpful for educators, parents and young people themselves.  You can watch the film below, and please spread the word if you like it.


Reflections from Occupy Wall Street

A new movement against corporate greed and economic inequality has been born in NYC and has quickly been spreading throughout the country, where 1% of the population owns 42% of the wealth.  The 99% are rising up.  I’m inspired.  I’m proud to be one of them.

Here are a few pieces I have written in the last few days about my thoughts about Occupy Wall Street.  I hope to see you on the front lines, with an instrument, a poem, your voice, and definitely, your heart.

Beyond Barricades and Privilege: Reflections from the #OccupyWallStreet Community/Labor March

Wall Street Sikhs, Corporate Tyranny, and the 99%

Check out the below clip from Democracy Now’s coverage of yesterday’s massive march in NYC with interviews with protesters and a little dhol playing by me…

Summer in full effect


Festival d'été de Québec, Credit: Renaud Philippe

It’s been a busy summer on the road with Red Baraat!  We just returned from several dates in Canada and our debut in London, England at the Barbican and the Shoreditch Festival.  We’re gearing up for an exciting end of the month in the Catskills and Toronto this weekend, then out west to Los Angeles for our debut west coast show at the Skirball Center. We’ll round out July with a homecoming show at one of my favorite things about summers in NYC — the Celebrate Brooklyn concert series in Prospect Park. Playing alongside go-go master Chuck Brown as well as Dr. John, it’s gonna be a memorable one!  Check out all the details on the shows page.

Red Baraat also just released a live album entitled BOOTLEG BHANGRA, which you can check out and download here.  It’s the next best thing to coming to a show…

In addition to Red Baraat, I recently spent a magical week in a homemade recording studio and gallery in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with the amazingly talented and powerful Sufi-inspired singer, Arooj Aftab and a host of other fantastic musicians and dancers working on her forthcoming debut album and a few videos.  You can check out more about this project here, and I will keep you posted on the album’s release!

Hope to see you soon!

Red Baraat’s Spring Southern Stint

Coming home from tour is always bittersweet. While I am glad to be back home with my cat Chotu and very much looking forward to sleeping in my own bed tonight, it feels disorienting to not be about to hit the stage again (at least not for a few days!). All of this to say…

10 days, 3 cities, and 11 shows made for one amazing and memorable Red Baraat Southern tour!

My recap:

Lafayette, LA:

We played 3 shows for thousands of people at the Festival International de Louisiane, a wonderful, community-oriented annual music fest in western Louisiana. We were received so warmly by everyone and are grateful for all the hospitality and good vibes.

Weird/amazing thing that happened: During the first song of our Saturday night show at the festival, a gorgeous, colorful little bird landed on the stage right behind me while MiWi, our bass trumpet player, was playing a solo. It just sat there and listened.  It was totally surreal – this little creature calmly sitting completely still on this brightly lit stage with massive decibels of of rhythmic sound bouncing around – seemingly entranced by Red Baraat’s music and the audience of a few thousand dancing souls. I don’t know what to make of it, but it was kind of mind-blowing. And beautiful. Our bird friend flew away after two or three minutes of attentive listening and observing…

Later that set, renowned New Orleans brass band the Soul Rebels sat in with us, which was a lot of fun. Check out a video clip of it here.  And some Tunuk Tunuk Tan below… 

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Sonny’s Spring Update!

globalFEST 2011, photo by Willis Glasspiegel

It’s been an eventful first few months of 2011 around the world!  From the Middle East to the Midwest, there is a lot to feel hopeful about, and also a lot to feel overwhelmed by.  I’ve been doing a lot of writing on politics, Sikhism, and social justice, which you can check out here.

On the music front, I started the year with a bang playing globalFEST with Red Baraat at Webster Hall, which was a blast.  The show was reviewed by dozens of media outlets including NPR, the New York Times, the Village Voice, Time Out NY, and more.  You can listen to our entire performance on NPR’s website here.

Jon Pareles wrote in the Times:  “The last set belonged to Red Baraat, a Brooklyn brass band (complete with sousaphone) that looks to South Asia, pumping out Bollywood tunes and Sufi songs with a crackling beat (from the two-headed dhol drum) and the muscle of horns blasting in unison, putting some New York bluster atop faraway roots.”

I’ve also been excited about a few new collaborations this year, including playing  trumpet and dhol with the amazing/crazy artist Sxip Shirey and a recording session with hip hop artist Alex Reyes.  I’m also looking forward to playing with the beautiful Sufi-inspired singer Arooj Aftab coming up in Brooklyn, and Red Baraat shows at the Kennedy Center in DC (sold out!), the New Orleans Jazz Festival, and the Houston International Festival.

As I focus more of my life on music, I am eager to continue building new musical relationships and collaborations, so get in touch if you want to build or know anyone looking for a trumpet player and/or dhol player.

Thanks for the continued support!

2011 here we come!

Well, another year is coming to a close, and I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been so supportive in my musical (and other) endeavors this past year.  2010 saw many transitions for me, not the least of which was leaving the world of full-time organizing work to re-focus on music.  It wouldn’t have been possible without your support!

2010 was a big year for Red Baraat, beginning with the release of our debut album Chaal Baby in January and summer and fall tours in the Midwest, Montreal, and Scandanavia, and of course our Triborough tours of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens.  I’ve never felt as much joy playing music as I do with Red Baraat, and a huge part of that is the explosive, positive energy that we receive from the audience — You!  Thank you for all the love!

Other highlights included playing trumpet and dhol in Judith Sloan‘s powerful one-woman show “Yo Miss! Teaching Across the Cultural Divide”; playing trumpet with Muslim punk rockers The Kominas, NYC’s fierce trio Mahina Movement, and Seattle-based hip hop artist Gabriel Teodros; rocking the dhol with amazing artists like Ozomatli, DJ Rekha, and DJ Oja; and getting the shoulders shrugging at a whole lot baraats!

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The Midwest knows how to get down

I just returned from a ten-day tour of the Midwest (again!) with Red Baraat.  This was our third time in that part of the country in the last year, and we really felt the midwestern love this time!  Our tour included shows at the Lotus Festival in Bloomington, Indiana, the Global Roots Festival in Minneapolis, the Chicago World Music Festival, the Landfall Festival in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana.  The audiences were amazing and open-minded all around and loved to get down on the dancefloor to the bhangra funk!

Here’s a video of us doing the Qawwali jam “Lal Meri Pat” (aka Dama Dam Mast Qalandar) at the Lotus Festival, where we were blessed with perhaps the most enthusiastic audiences we’ve ever played for.  I had to put on earplugs on stage not because of the band’s sound, but because of the insane decibel level of the audience’s cheering.

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On the road with Red Baraat

It’s been a busy summer!  After 5 late June performances at the Montreal Jazz Festival, I recently returned from a few weeks of touring with Red Baraat in the Midwest US and Scandanavia.

Chicago Folk & Roots Festival, 7/11/10

Highlights from the Midwest include performances at the Chicago Folk & Roots Festival, Chicago Summer Dance (with bhangra lessons of course), and Detroit’s Concert of Colors.  In Wisconsin, I was committed to find the best frozen custard but totally struck out… I guess we’ll have to go back soon!

In Europe, we had the privilege of playing at the Molde Jazz Festival in Norway and the Pori Jazz Festival in Finland.  This was the band’s (and my) first time performing in Europe and was an amazing experience.  Though it was raining most of the time in Molde, the audiences were still energetic and coming out for the bhangra brass funk (and the waffle carts on the street were delicious).  At Pori, we had the honor of sharing the stage (in front of maybe 4,000 people!) with Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and the legendary Gil Scott-Heron.  Gil even gave us a shout out at the beginning of his set saying something like, “Wasn’t that band amazing?  They made me want to go home and practice my tuba!” (as he bopped around on stage).  It was an exciting week in Scandanavia, and I’m looking forward to bringing our music to more countries around Europe and the World!

The late summer is still busy in New York and the east coast with shows in Pennsylvania, Queens, and Brooklyn (visit the shows page for all the details).  Then in September, Red Baraat heads on the road again for another Midwest stint, this time going to Minnesota, Indiana, Iowa, and making a return to Chicago. Read More

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