Brooklyn-based musician, composer, and bandleader of RedBaraat, SunnyJain, announces Wild Wild East, his first solo album in nearly a decade, out February 21st on Smithsonian Folkways, and presents lead single, “Immigrant Warrior.”Wild Wild East explores the American myth of westward expansion, which has always been an irony-caked parable about what happens when you try to escape the known to pursue new beginnings, but also the traits that still ring true.
The son of immigrants from India, Jain is a kid from Rochester raised on the Cure and prog rock, a fluid jazz drummer on his own and as a party-starter with Red Baraat, and an American of color. Accordingly, his view is broad enough to take in shuddering walls of post-rock guitar, howling tenor sax, the persistent thump of Indian brass band music, rhythms from Punjab and southern Pakistan, film soundtracks from around the world, and swaggering West Coast rap. It’s defined by its restlessness, daring enough to encompass many different identities. It’s an album built of a truly American spirit, singing in a new voice: I am large, I contain multitudes.
The ease with which Jain braids his sound highlights the interconnectedness of global styles — and that sense of connection goes beyond the music itself, as Jain leads his group across genre borders he knows are arbitrary.
Wild Wild East first started to take shape following the 2016 election. “It felt like the Wild West,” Jain says of the times, though they played out in the theoretically civilized confines of Washington, D.C., and New York City — the East Coast. Around the same time, he found himself performing at the cultural festival park Global Village in Dubai, where countries from around the world are represented by architectural installations. “The only [place] there that was being represented by a human being was the Americas, and the Americas were represented by this cowboy — a white male cowboy with a hat, beard, gun in the holster.”
The cowboy’s boldness, bravery, and radical independence? It looks different when you’re not the one holding the gun. “The idea was to address the cowboy mentality that we people of color — whether you’re red, brown, or black — face,” Jain says. “The cowboy is this sheriff that you witness throughout American history, from the Wild West to the cops today, but if I were the native, if I were the African American, it’s like, ‘This cowboy is coming to shoot me down.’ This is not romantic to me at all.”
Jain brings us out to the wide-open spaces of the American West, a different kind of Indian engaging with the tired old cowboy. These songs suggest a migration of sound from east to west that can’t be contained, only — thrillingly — accepted. In other words, Wild Wild East recognizes a world that’s always changing: Today’s cowboy or cowgirl learns how to adapt to their conditions. They see that they’re just as conditional as everything around them.
In support of the album, Jain is confirmed to play Winter Jazzfest in NYC on January 10 (venue TBA), with more dates to be announced soon.