WorldFest will overflow downtown Louisville’s Belvedere today through Monday with food, music, clothes and art representing dozens of countries. It can be overwhelming, and picking a destination can be tough.
Not tonight. At 9:30 p.m., the only place to be is the main stage for Red Baraat’s performance.
From New York, Sunny Jain’s band ranks as one of the world’s most indescribable. You could link a half-dozen genres in any order, using as many hyphens as you’d like, and still not capture the band’s essence. Red Baraat’s bio describes it as a merger of “North Indian bhangra rhythms with elements of jazz, go-go, brass funk, and hip-hop.”
Then again, Jain can’t stand his band’s bio.
“I hate the way it reads,” he said, laughing. “I’ve always hated genres. I know that they’re there for the sake of commodification and consumption by people who buy records and CDs, but I’ve never liked them as a musician.
“I’ve come to realize that I don’t really care about how anyone describes the band. Everyone’s going to think about it in the context of whatever their background or musical experience is. South Asians hear the Indian music, jazzers hear the jazz music, when we’re in New Orleans people hear the brass tradition.”
Mostly, however, people dance.
No matter what route the eight-piece band takes, it leads audiences to a place where they want to move. Shortly after Jain put the band together in 2008, it began playing a small bar called Barbes in Brooklyn. Red Baraat’s twice-monthly shows became a happening as the band’s identity emerged.
“I think six months into it we realized that the band fit into the mold of being really interesting to a music connoisseur, something they could just listen to, but on the other side if you just wanted to dance your tail off, you could do that.
“So we made the choice to make this into a dance-party band, but the place where all of us come from is that we’re musicians who have always written jazz compositions; there are classical arrangers and conductors in the band. So while we focused on becoming a dance band, there’s still a depth to what’s happening melodically or rhythmically.”
Jain’s first love is jazz, and he’s an accomplished drummer with several albums under his own name (in Red Baraat he plays a dhol, an Indian drum with two heads). He has studied composition, taught, written two instructional drum books, booked shows at a jazz club, and performed regularly with rock band Junoon, often described as the U2 of South Asia.
“I knew early on that I wanted to play for a living, but I also had wonderful teachers when I was young who always told me to be versatile and not get locked into one thing just for the sake of work,” Jain said. “It was a long process of being open to things, and also being interested in them.”
That sounds a lot like WorldFest, which has free admission and will have more than 50 bands and singers representing a wide variety of music, more than 30 food vendors and nearly 150 booths dedicated to the world’s cultures, art and food.
Other national bands include Grupo Fantasma, Eileen Ivers & Immigrant Soul, The Ark Band and Jazz in Pink. Local and regional acts will fill out the lineups on two stages.
Other events include the annual naturalization ceremony, for nearly 300 immigrants, today at 2 p.m. in the Kentucky Center’s Bomhard Theater; the Parade of Cultures Saturday at noon, beginning near Louisville Metro Hall and ending at the Main Stage on the Belvedere’s west lawn; and Cooking Up Cultures offering free samples of international cuisine today at 5 and 7, Saturday at 1, 3, 5 and 7 and Sunday at 1, 3 and 5.
There also will be a Global Village, where people from a variety of nations will represent their culture, customs and music; World of Discovery, a children-specific area with hands-on activities; the Louisville Third Century Hospitality Tent, host for a reception welcoming the freshly minted citizens; and a Career Opportunities & Resources Expo, today in the Kentucky Center from 1 to 5 p.m., with workshops dedicated to the city’s immigrant population.
Jain said that festivals are a different animal compared to clubs.
“What I love about festivals is, first of all, they bring the community together,” he said. “Everyone gets to celebrate and enjoy it, and that’s what’s most exciting to me.”
Contact Jeffrey Lee Puckett at (502) 582-4160, firstname.lastname@example.org and @JLeePuckett on Twitter