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Exclusive Premiere: Indo-American Artist Sunny Jain’s Trippy ‘Where Is Home’ Video

The New York-based founder of global music group Red Baraat talks transcultural project ‘Phoenix Rise,’ which includes an album, recipe book

Anurag Tagat May 17, 2021

New York-based producer-percussionist Sunny Jain. Photo: Ebru Yildiz

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There are over 50 artists involved in New York-based percussionist, producer and drummer Sunny Jain’s new solo record Phoenix Rise. What’s more, they’re not just musicians like Snarky Puppy’s Michael League, pianist Vijay Iyer, violinist-vocalist Rini or singer-songwriter Shilpa Ananth (featured on his latest single “Where Is Home”). There are visual artists, filmmakers, photographers and dancers, among others who have come together to create a 10-track album and a cookbook that doubles up as a photobook.

So how did Jain – the founder of Red Baraat – manage to put this “transcultural” project all together? He says with a laugh, “I can say that I’m fortunately really good with spreadsheets.” The percussionist adds, “Things moved easily thanks in huge part to all the folks involved. But yeah, much of this was done via emailing, some phone calls and just collaborating – and then just sitting in my basement studio putting things together.”

While the full album will release on May 21st via Sinj Records, “Where Is Home” gives us a glimpse of the aptly journeying sound of Phoenix Rise. Over a bedrock of buoyant percussion and beats by Jain on dhol and Joe Russo on the drums, plus violin from Mauro Durante and John Falsetto elegantly tinkering with the mbira, “Where Is Home” is led by the Tamil-English vocals of Shilpa Ananth, who was temporarily stuck in Dubai on her way back to New York after her India tour in early 2020.

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The music video for “Where Is Home” is directed by Puducherry-born, New York-based filmmaker and writer Swetha Regunathan, putting forth imaginations of an ever-elusive home. Shot on 16mm film in the Trona Pinaccles in southern California, Regunathan says, “I imagined the classic American road trip ending on another planet altogether, a fantastical intergalactic conclusion to the song’s evocative lyric ‘I’ve walked in circles, twists and turns.’” The music video features Seema Hari, who was also seen in Pakistani-origin Canadian producer Khanvict’s music video for “Closer” earlier this year.

Watch the video for “Where Is Home” below.

A result of the pandemic-enforced lockdown, Jain began creating and uploading snippets of jams as early as May 2020 as “remote recordings” with friends and artists who were in a similar situation. Jain notes that the initial motivator was connecting and finding a sense of community, but the murder of African-American George Floyd “brought the project into clearer focus.” Jain’s songs and videos raised money for causes and now, Phoenix Rise’s collaborators will forego royalties so that all proceeds from the album sales will go towards the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York. “As a child of immigrants, I appreciate their work challenging abusive immigration policies and supporting families and communities of color,” Jain adds.

With the two lead singles out – “Heroes” and “I’ll Make It Up To You” – and now “Where Is Home,” Jain notes that it was only by September last year that he decided to turn song snippets into “a springboard to make them full-length.” It helped that the snippets he’d uploaded so far were getting “tremendous feedback from fans” who wanted it on streaming platforms.

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For the cookbook that comes with Phoenix Rise, Jain crowdsourced 22 “planet-based” vegan dishes and photos crafted by art director Louis F. Cuffari and photographer James Bartolozzi. Jain says the idea of the book was to connect food, music and community. “The pandemic increased home cooking and eating, for sure, and so that seemed to make sense versus traditional album liner notes […] Everything moved swiftly and I think it’s because there was no agenda to make this into what it has become,” Jain says about the project.

Although there are show bookings in the works now as things open up in the U.S., Jain says his energy has been focused on the pandemic situation in India. “I lost my uncle just a couple of weeks ago and practically every South Asian I know in the States has someone that has fallen to COVID. My heart aches for what the people are going through […] it’s difficult to foresee or talk about anything to come during this time.”

Pre-order/buy ‘Phoenix Rise’ here. Watch the video for “Heroes” below.

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