An Immigrant Warrior Wielding a Dhol


The Red Baraat’s torchbearer, Sunny Jain, thrums his dhol to the cadence of commotion – afire with harmony. After serving as the Musical Director of the theatre-drama The Jungle, and lending his talent to NBC new TV show Sunnyside, Jain returns to the recording studio to release his three-act sonorous single, Immigrant Warrior, from his upcoming album Wild Wild East. The composition trips across rhythmic styles as one would trip stumbling up a river; echoing the incessant friction of a fractured identity – a commonplace for migrants and their descendants within the New World.

Immigrant Warrior is a six-minute journey full of sonic color. In the song’s first third, we fasten our boots for an unmerciful voyage. Each heavy-breathed grumble of rusted brass enraptures our spirit. Scraping metal lurches the listener through a thick fog, towards a beckoning light. You can feel the sweat cast off the surface of Sunny’s drums with each of his dizzying hits. The track flows towards symmetry.

Two-and-a-half minutes in, we enter the tamasha’s second act. We have been primed to persist through the desolate soundscape in devotion to our ancestors. We are drudging through burning sands on the the leash of the tenor saxophone’s drooping drawl. Then, at about four-and-a-half minutes in, just as you think Sunny has brought us to the point of no return, the song resolves into a surreal mariachi of a sojourner’s romance for the journey itself. The immigrant warrior has brought you to realize that there should be no hunger for a destination, only faith in procession.

Embellishing the Immigrant Warrior cover, looking equal parts Zapatísta as he does pundit, Jain is reminding us, in an era of contentious border-crossings, that the 1947 partitioning of India was the largest mass migration in the history of planet Earth. Sunny Jain has taken his dhol-infused band-compositions, such as that seen in his collectively-organized mass-performance of 100+ BPM for NPR, and translated that emotional deluge into a devotional saga.

The album, Wild Wild East, is due for release on February 21st, 2020 through the Smithsonian Institute’s non profit record label, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, as part of the Asian Pacific America series. Sunny Jain is also leading the Red Baraat Festival of Colors in March of 2020. The festival will be hitting major cities on the East and West Coast, with a final show at the SFJAZZ Center on March 22.

Oomung Varma’s fundamental understanding of music comes from his background of learning tabla and guitar at a young age. Until his recent move back to the Bay Area, he had been DJing in New York City, his music being heavily influenced by Indian percussion and sound.

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