The beating heart of the vibrant and varied career of Sunny Jain is a celebration of cultural diaspora: deep-rooted tradition that ripples outward, changing – and being changed by – the cultures that it touches. Whether dazzling an audience with his propulsive dhol mastery or anchoring a modern jazz band with his creative drumming; as a savvy entrepreneur navigating the seismic shifts of the modern music business or setting pen to paper to craft innovative compositions; in whatever role he takes on, Jain embodies the all-embracing spirit of globalized artistry.

Called the “Hendrix of dhol” by Manchester Salon (UK), Jain deftly blends the modern and the traditional, the personal and the communal, the inventive and the festive. Nowhere is that exemplified as vividly as in Red Baraat, the frenzied fusion of bhangra, hip-hop, jazz, rock, and sheer, unbridled energy that he founded in 2008 and that NPR has called “the best party band in years.” The bandleader also founded the boutique artist-booking agency Jainsounds to offer high-quality live music for events and functions for the South Asian American community.

As a jazz drummer, Jain has worked with the likes of Norah Jones, Marc Cary, Kenny Wollesen and Kyle Eastwood. He toured the world with the acclaimed Sufi rock band Junoon, recording the single “Open Your Eyes” with Peter Gabriel. He’s also collaborated with rapper Himanshu Suri (Das Racist/Swet Shop Boys), tabla player/producer Karsh Kale, pianist/composer Vijay Iyer, saxophonist Donny McCaslin, producer Andres Levin and NYC bhangra pioneer, DJ Rekha, among countless others. Jain founded the Sunny Jain Collective to commingle the influences of Indian classical music and jazz, and melded ethereal indie-pop with driving Indian rhythms with Indian-American vocalist Samita Sinha and guitarist Grey McMurray in Tongues in Trees. Through his Taboo project, he confronted social justice issues facing the South Asian community.

Signal to Noise declared, “Jain’s unique compositions stake out singular turf in this 21st Century world of cross-pollinating musical traditions.” NPR commissioned him to write for “Make Music New York” day in 2014. Jain’s piece, “100+ BPM” convened more than 350 musicians on the steps of the Brooklyn Public Library. He has also received composition and performance grants from Aaron Copland Music Fund, Chamber Music America, Meet the Composer, and more.

Jain has brought these influences and experiences to new audiences via appearances on Broadway, in films and on television, and through speaking engagements at the White House AAPI conference, Harvard University, New York University and elsewhere, helping to spread his pluralistic message through cerebral as well as visceral means. It’s absolutely fitting that one of the highlights of the Red Baraat calendar has become its annual Festival of Colors tour. In these celebratory events, Jain has brought together not just the varied hues of his own influences, but curated a dizzying array of artists as he’s built the festival to a ten-city bacchanal. Jain’s own career can be viewed as a similar mélange of colors, each bold on its own but commingling to form a stunning panorama.

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Dhol on NBC

Sunny Jain had the great pleasure of recording his dhol to the new NBC TV show, Sunnyside.

Starring Kal Penn, Sunny also contributed some horn arrangements to original the score composed by Siddhartha Khosla.

Solo album announced – Smithsonian Folkways Recording

Sunny Jain has announced the release of a solo album with Smithsonian Folkways in 2020. Revolving around two archetypes of American identity, cowboys and immigrants, the currently untitled album incorporates the influences of Spaghetti Westerns, Punjabi and Rajasthani folk music, 1950’s Bollywood and shoegaze. The album is being worked on at Studio G in Brooklyn, NY with co-producer Joel Hamilton (Bonobo, Tom Waits, Marc Ribot, Bomba Estereo). The album will feature collaborations with Grey Mcmurray (guitar), Pawan Benjamin (tenor saxophone, bansuri, shehnai), Kenny Bentley (sousaphone), Ganavya Doraiswamy and Aditya Prakash (vocals), and other special guests TBA. It is the inaugural release in Smithsonian Folkways’ new Asian Pacific American Series.

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings is the nonprofit record label of the Smithsonian Institution, the national museum of the United States, dedicated to supporting cultural diversity and increased understanding among peoples through the documentation, preservation, and dissemination of sound.

Lincoln Center 60th Anniversary Celebration

In May 1959, Lincoln Center broke ground as the country’s first modern performing arts center. Now home to eleven distinguished constituent organizations, Lincoln Center continues to strive to represent the highest standards of excellence in opera, symphonic and chamber music, theater, jazz, world music, dance, film, arts education, and community engagement. May 2019 marked six decades since Lincoln Center’s debut. Sunny Jain was asked to musical director the day, in which he programmed 4 artists: Plezi Rara, Opera Noire of New York, Fogo Azul and Red Baraat PLUS. The special day culminated with over 135 musicians coming together to perform a finale piece that Jain arranged and led on the Josie Robertson Plaza. In the spirit of the day, Jain’s arrangement started with the intro to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue before segueing to the Alica Keys and Jay-Z hit, Empire State of Mind.

The Jungle

An urgent story for our time; a once-in-a-lifetime theatrical event. Following widely-acclaimed, sensation-stirring, and completely sold-out engagements in London, the show premiered in Brooklyn, NY at St. Ann’s Warehouse and in San Francisco, CA at the Curran Theater.  Sunny Jain was musical director for the U.S. run.

The heart-stopping stories of those who inhabited this desolate patch of land in France roar back to life in this shockingly intimate and wildly acclaimed production that plunges us directly into its subject matter. Hailed by critics as “thrilling…ravishing…devastating” (New York Times) and “a significant event in which theatre shakes hands with the world” (The Sunday Times), THE JUNGLE is a once-in-a-lifetime event not to be missed.  The creative team was a winner of 2019 Obie Award.

Red Baraat’s Brooklyn Mela

Red Baraat brought their first ever MELA to the esteemed stages of Celebrate Brooklyn on July 7, 2016. Curated by Sunny Jain and BRIC, the evening brought together some of the top South Asian artists in the US: Karsh Kale, DJ Rekha, Heems (Das Racist / Swet Shop Boys), Bhi Bhiman, Falu and Shilpa Ray.  Thousands rocked all night long and there was a surprise appearance by Top Chef judge and model, Padma Lakshmi, during an impromptu dance off on stage. Find more pics HERE.

Premiere of Sunny Jain’s NPR Commissioned “100+ BPM”

We are so pleased to show your NPR’s short-film of the premiere of Sunny Jain’s 100+BPM, which happened on the steps of the Brooklyn Public Library on June 21, 2014. Click the photo below to bring you to the video. We’ve re-posted NPR Producer Anastasia Tsioulcas’ All Things Considered report from June 22 here, which captured this day so well. So many people came together to make this premiere possible and we can’t overstate our gratitude to all.

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From Anastasia Tsioulcas’ All Things Considered:  

On this absolutely gorgeous Saturday afternoon, about 350 musicians assembled on the steps of the Brooklyn Public Library to play Jain’s 100+ BPM. Young, older, professional drumlines, community marching bands, seasoned jazz players, Indian wedding band musicians, Brazilian samba drummers and scads of amateur players came out to play. It was just incredible.

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