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.