[22 February 2010]
A combination of bhangra and marching band—“dhol ‘n’ brass” is its phrase—Red Baraat is based in the United States. This, its first album, is a mix of mainly instrumental tunes, at least two of which might be familiar even to listeners who have only a brief acquaintance with Indian music: “Tunak Tunak Tun”, the Daler Mehndi video that meme’d its way around the Internet all the way through to the draenai dance on World of Warcraft and “Dum Maro Dum”, a standard inclusion on compilations of retro filmi music. An upswing of soprano saxophone takes the place of Asha Bhosle’s flirty coo. Saxophone replaces her sister, too, in “Mehndi Laga Ke Rakhna”. “Mehndi” streams apart into a jazz clatter, a writhe of trumpet, the dhol and marching-band percussion bouncing and clamoring, as the bhangra speeds up into tangles. This is the way the band approach its reinterpretations, first setting up the song, getting it to the point where you know what you’re listening to, then messing fondly with it, jazzing it into playful pieces, changing speeds, the brass racing as if it might trip over, tickling the listener with this banana-peel threat to stability. The band catches up to itself at the end, staggering upright, grinning triumphantly, and taking a bow, which is maybe a final putter from John Altieri’s sousaphone.