Center For Arts & Equity

Sonny Singh

Sonny Singh has brought his fiery trumpet playing and vocals to audiences around the world for the last decade as an original member of the Brooklyn Bhangra outfit Red Baraat. In 2020, he launched a new solo project inspired by Sikh kirtan with boundary-defying Punjabi anthems to uplift & ignite.

Sonny's first musical outlet as a child of immigrant parents in North Carolina was singing Sikh devotional music in gurdwaras (Sikh houses of worship). His energy shifted to other types of music as he became a more serious musician: ska, reggae, funk, punk rock, bhangra, and more. In 2003, Sonny co-founded the political rock band Outernational and recorded an album produced by Tom Morello. As a singer and trumpet player, he has been central to the sound and raw energy of Red Baraat since the band's inception in 2008, touring globally and recording 5 studio albums. Sonny has also performed with notable artists including Michael Franti & Spearhead, Ozomatli, Toshi Reagon, Arooj Aftab, Ankur Tewari, The Ska Vengers, and DJ Rekha.

In the winter of 2018, feeling a sense of despair in the wake of white supremacist acts of terror in the US and the rising tide of fascism globally, he started returning to kirtan. Sonny revisited some of the shabads he learned as a child and made short Instagram videos singing them and playing trumpet, dhol, percussion, and harmonium. He found it cathartic to dig back into this rich spiritual-musical tradition that had been bubbling beneath the surface of his creative voice for years.

Soon he started diving into more Gurbani (Sikh devotional poetry) and Sufi poetry and began writing his own music to these beautiful and provocative verses written by Kabir, Guru Arjan, Baba Farid, and Guru Gobind Singh, to name a few. Much of this poetry he sings on the album was written hundreds of years ago, but the message of denouncing tyranny, oppression, and dogmatic ideologies while uplifting Oneness, Divine Love, and radical equality resonates deeply in our current times.

Sonny’s music is a reminder that hope, love, and devotion are crucial to our struggles and our collective survival. His debut album, “Chardi Kala” is a return to Sonny’s Punjabi & Sikh roots, but with the lens he’s developed over the course of his life as a touring musician, educator, and activist.

Sonny Singh’s music has been previously featured on NPR, Rolling Stone India and HuffPost.

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