PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Red Baraat: Bhangra Pirates

Photo: Shervin Lainez

Stripped-down production and intricate arrangements let Red Baraat get the party started on Bhangra Pirates.

Red Baraat

Bhangra Pirates

Label: Rhyme & Reason
US Release Date: 2017-03-24
UK Release Date: 2017-03-24

Longtime fans of Brooklyn-based bhangra fusion party band Red Baraat will recognize each infectious track on Bhangra Pirates. In addition to being performed live, most were found on 2015's Gaadi of Truth, with the exception of "Tunak Tunak Tun", a cover of a song made popular worldwide by Daler Mehndi's viral YouTube music video. Red Baraat has covered it for years, too. On Gaadi of Truth, the songs themselves are solid, and the band's technique good, but on Bhangra Pirates, good becomes great as the production is stripped down (the recordings are largely touched-up mixes of past performances on KEXP) and the instruments -- guitar, percussion, and most especially that signature brass -- get much-needed room to explore their respective dynamic ranges.

It makes for more dramatic moments, exactly the band's forte. Saxophone-heavy "Rang Barse" stands out as a perfect example of what the group can do with so much space, varying speed, and tone for seven twisting minutes. It’s a true odyssey, and one in good company among other long and layered tracks like the hotly exuberant "Zindabad" and full-speed "Akhiyan Udeek Diyan". Each track is packed with tight, precise intricacies, but never weighed down by them. Instead of acting as burdens, the complexities only encourage the musical flow and the back-and-forth between the band’s eight members, color upon color in a brilliant design.

There are also tracks with a little more crowd-pleasing punch, with simple lyrics ideal for audience singalongs. On "Bhangra Pirates", the group throws all cares to the wind: "Do what you want cause a pirate is free / Take to the sea, get some booty booty." On go-go-inspired "Gaadi of Truth", band members call for more horn, and "Se Hace Camino" features a heartfelt Spanish-language chorus repeated over mariachi-esque horns. By the second iteration of any chorus, the words are locked in your mind and falling out of your mouth, and you’ll be relishing the joy in every syllable.

Clearer production makes it easier for each of Red Baraat’s chosen musical styles to stand out as they blend together. Jazz, funk, and rock and roll all play important parts on Bhangra Pirates, and it’s clear early on the album, even to newcomers, that Red Baraat is less about sticking to a genre than to doing what makes the whole band - and the whole audience -- have a genuinely great time. There’s more than enough to smile about here, between sharp technique, strong mood, and exciting melody, and Red Baraat never dumbs it down just to make things easier, one of the foremost qualities that set them apart as a band worth getting the party started for.

To translate stage energy onto a studio album, especially for a band that thrives on human energy as much as Red Baraat, is no easy task. Bhangra Pirates is the most successful attempt to package that energy yet for Red Baraat, ecstatic and frenzied, turning each individual listening at home into a full audience. It’s as close to a live performance as it could possibly be, and while nothing will ever hit the highs of seeing Red Baraat play in person, the group’s latest hits with fantastic force, and riding its funky wave feels very, very refreshing.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."


50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.


Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.


The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.


Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.