The Kennedy Center

Sunny Jain


From the resounding hall of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway, to the intimate setting of Smalls Jazz Club in New York City, to the massive applause on festival stages in India, Sunny Jain is an innovative drummer, composer and dhol player.  Born to Punjabi immigrant parents and raised in Rochester, New York, Jain is an Indian-American musical trailblazer.

Jain most recently recorded Open Your Eyes by Salman Ahmad of the famed sufi-rock group Junoon, which also features Peter Gabriel, and Two Ships by David Byrne and Annie Clark, which features both Byrne and Clark along with the Asphalt Orchestra.  He is currently preparing to record Shruggy Ji, the 2nd album to come from Red Baraat, the 9-piece Bhangra Funk band he founded in 2008.

Sunny Jain is recognized as a lead voice in an emerging movement of South Asian-American jazz musicians who bring together America's greatest original art form and the ancient sounds of their cultural heritage.  Steeped in the jazz tradition since the age of 12, Jain's 5 CD releases (As Is, Mango Festival, Avaaz, Chaal Baby, Taboo) have received international acclaim for their "groundbreaking synthesis" (Coda Magazine). His latest release, Taboo (BJUR 2010), Jain "stakes out singular turf in this 21st Century world of cross-pollinating musical traditions" (Signal to Noise). Jain draws inspiration from the musical sensibilities of modern India, as well as its ancient classical forms.  His Punjabi roots and appreciation for Bollywood classics are audible in his work and Indian dance rhythms find resonance with the syncopated jazz canon.  His influences go further from drum & bass to progressive rock, to Brazilian and West African rhythms.

In addition to drumset, Jain plays the indigenous drum of Punjab, dhol, a double-sided, barrel-shaped North Indian drum slung over one shoulder played with bamboo sticks.  On dhol, he leads Red Baraat, a unique dhol 'n' brass band melding the infectious North Indian rhythm Bhangra with brass funk and expressing the human spirit through improvisation and an explosive stage performance.  Red Baraat was featured in National Geographic, Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, Relix, Songlines, Indian Express and multiple other publications in 2009-10. "Red Baraat has been one of the New York music scene's best-kept secrets" (National Geographic). Jain made his professional debut as a dholi playing in the first ever Indian Broadway show, Bombay Dreams (2004).  He has since gone on to perform with Masala Bhangra fitness guru, Sarina Jain ("The Indian Jane Fonda"), jazz legend Dewey Redman with Asha Puthli, and Cucu Diamantes of the Latin Funk band, Yerba Buena.  Jain made his Hollywood debut playing dhol in the movie, Accidental Husband, starring Uma Thurman, Colin Firth and Isabella Rossellini.

Jain also is an accomplished composer and was profiled in Downbeat magazine (November 2009) for his unique blending of Indian music with jazz/world. He has written over 40 original works and composed the background music for Sarina Jain's Masala Bhangra DVD's, Volumes 7 & 8.  In 2008, he was commissioned by the Aaron Copland Fund to record Taboo, after being commissioned in 2006 by Chamber Music America to compose the new works. 

Jain closed out 2007 with a milestone performance with the famed Sufi-rock group Junoon at the Nobel Peace Prize concert in Oslo, Norway, playing for Al Gore.  In 2006, Traps magazine highlighted Sunny as a top New York City world jazz drummers, following on the heels of a feature in Jazz Hot magazine (France), in which he was noted as a rising star for his fusion of jazz and Indian music.  Sunny received the Arts International Award in both 2003 and 2005 and in 2002, he was designated a Jazz Ambassador by the U.S. Department of State and The Kennedy Center.   

Jain has performed/recorded with Rez Abbasi, Kiran Ahluwalia, Asphalt Orchestra, Joey Baron, Kenny Barron, Seamus Blake, David Byrne, Marc Cary, Samir Chatterjee, Cucu Diamantes, Kyle Eastwood, Peter Gabriel, Norah Jones, Junoon, Andres Levin, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Donny McCaslin, Q-Tip, St. Vincent (Annie Clark), Martha Wainwright, Kenny Wollesen, and many others.

Jain is also a respected educator with multiple appearances in high schools and universities leading workshops and masterclasses on drumming, Indian rhythmic concepts, and music business.  He is the author of 2 instructional drum books released through Alfred Publishing.  Jain is on faculty at Horace Mann and holds an M.A. in Music Business from New York University and a B.M. in Jazz Performance from Rutgers University.
Sunny Jain