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MJF67, Sept. 27-29, 2024


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© Ebru Yildiz
Sunny Jain’s Wild Wild East
  • Grounds Artist
  • Sunday, September 29 7:30 pm - 8:30 pm Tim Jackson Garden Stage

Sunny Jain's Wild Wild East (Smithsonian Folkways 2020) encompasses myriad facets of Jain’s identity both as a first-generation South Asian–American and as a global musician, from his own family’s immigration story to his eclectic musical upbringing. In recasting the immigrant—steeped in the courage to leave a familiar homeland for a new beginning — as the modern-day cowboy and cowgirl, Jain sources musical inspiration from the scores of Bollywood classics and Spaghetti Westerns, Punjabi folk traditions, jazz improvisation, and rollicking psychedelic styles. Sunny Jain’s Wild Wild East is rooted in the contemporary global soundscape, singing in a new voice, “I am large, I contain multitudes.” In 2022, the band embarked on a milestone tour to Pakistan headlining Music Mela in Islamabad, the Lahore Jazz Festival and performing with master Sufi dhol drummers Nasir Sain Wajdani and Sain Tanveer. Just months prior, the group performed on the National Mall in Washington D.C. for the renowned Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

The 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. He is a composer, drummer, dhol player and thought leader. In 2022, Jain joined Planet Drum for their first show in 15 years, playing alongside drumming legends Mickey Hart, Zakir Hussain, and Giovanni Hidalgo.

In 2021, Jain released Phoenix Rise, a collaborative effort featuring over 50 artists such as Arooj Aftab, Michael League (Snarky Puppy), Adrian Quesada (Black Pumas), Endea Owens (The Late Show with Stephen Colbert) and Joe Russo (jam band darling).

Accompanying the full digital album is a 72-page physical book that combines music, art, photography and planet-based recipes, all in the name of social justice. As executive producer and music producer, Jain partnered with the Center for Constitutional Rights to fundraise and advocate for the work they do.

Called the “Hendrix of dhol” by Manchester Salon (UK), Jain is most known for founding the pioneering band Red Baraat, a frenzied fusion of bhangra, hip-hop, jazz, rock, and sheer, unbridled energy that NPR has called “the best party band in years.” The band has performed across the globe including stops at the White House (Obama), London Olympics, TED, Austin City Limits, Bonnaroo, Luxembourg Philharmonic, Peter Gabriel’s WOMAD festivals (Australia, New Zealand, Spain, UK) and Padma Lakshmi’s Blossom Ball. Jain was also the drummer for the acclaimed Sufi rock band Junoon for several years, recording the single “Open Your Eyes” with Peter Gabriel, performing at the Nobel Peace Prize concert in 2007, Srinagar University in Kashmir in 2009, and the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2009.

Jain is in development of his first musical theatrical piece called Love Force — supported by National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, and MAP Fund. His entry to theater began in 2018, after serving as musical director to the OBIE award-winning London-based play, The Jungle, and then becoming music producer to Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding, The Musical in 2023.