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In its 34th season, the Ann Arbor Summer Festival is in full swing, with free programs that include live music, art exhibitions, wellness events, local cuisine and outdoor film screenings running through the first weekend of July. 

Referred to by NPR as “the best party band in years,” the Brooklyn, New York based, and critically-acclaimed brass band, Red Baraat, is one of the festival’s final acts, performing July 1st at 10:15pm on the Rackham Stage. While Red Baraat’s blaring horns and ability to transition between multiple genres resemble a New Orleans style brass band, the group also draws heavily from Southeast Asian instrumentation and popular bhangra beats. 

BrooklynMela 149“A lot of people don’t know that there’s actually a brass band tradition in South Asia that goes back to the days of the British Empire,” says lead trumpet player Sonny Singh. “Obviously, the colonizers were bringing over all these different brass and European instruments. Locals in India started picking them up and playing their own melodies.”

An eight-piece band that consists of horn players and a multitude of percussionists, it seems as if Red Baraat can play anything. Audiences will see a high-energy band and hear hip hop beats, funk grooves, go-go rhythms and blazing fast bhangra, the music and dance style from India’s Punjab region. Front man Sunny Jain brings it all together playing the dhol—the Indian double-headed drum at the center of any bhangra group. With so much versatility and energy, Red Baraat has an unbelievable live performance. Metro Detroit audiences may remember their appearance from this past fall at the formal opening of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Cube, and be looking forward to hearing their high-energy party music in an outdoor festival setting. 

“At the end of the day, the vibe of the band is all about hard-driving joy and love,” says Singh passionately. “I think we experience that when we’re at our best on stage and that joy and love spreads to the audience.” 

For Singh, the fun Red Baraat has on stage and the band’s intention of extending good vibes to the audience doesn’t mean they’re stuck in one place. 

“Sometimes there’s edge and darkness to our sound. The music is very emotive and comes straight from our hearts,” he says. “There’s a lot of improvisation in our music. Every show is a little different depending on the mood in the world or our mindset on that particular day, but positivity and joy tends to shine through in the end.” 

The way in which Red Baraat incorporates many different musical styles and instruments from around the world makes the band uniquely American. Immigration and the fusion of ideas across cultures in the United States have created opportunities for groups such as Red Baraat to exist. For Singh, the band is even more precisely an extension of their home base in New York City. 

Red Baraat Rich Gastwirt3 1More than anything," Singh says of describing their sound, "we’re a New York band. We have folks in the band who are African-American, we have folks who are white, and folks who are Jewish. Everyone in the band grew up in North America, but then of course, many of us are looking to our ancestry in Punjab, India and other parts of South Asia for inspiration.” 

“After seeing us perform, I hope people are feeling excited, joyful and that anything is possible,” says Singh eagerly. “I think in these times that we’re living in, I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t feel hopeless sometimes. But to me, hopelessness is not an option and music is one of the things that keep our band going and reminds us about the power of connection. I hope people leave our show with that sense of connectedness and hope.” 

Images courtesy of Red Baraat.

For more information about the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, click here.