Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Sonny Singh: Chardi Kala (Self-released)

A review of the trumpeter/vocalist's debut

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.
Sonny Singh: Chardi Kala (Self-released)
The cover of Chardi Kala by Sonny Singh

The music that trumpeter/vocalist Sonny Singh presents on his debut Chardi Kala is vibrant, ebullient, and energized. That’s by design, of course, with the album’s Punjabi title referring to a Sikh concept of “revolutionary eternal optimism.” But it’s one thing to make joyful music and another to bring the listener into that ecstatic space.

Best known for his tenure in the Brooklyn-based Bhangra brass band Red Baraat, Singh the bandleader knows how to guide the energy of Baraat’s party of the body to his own celebration of the spirit. See “Koi Bol Ram,” a kirtan (traditional devotional song) about religious pluralism that horns (saxo- and sousaphones, reeds, and trumpets) and percussion propel with an almost swaggering cadence. In the chorus, Singh’s voice fades into the choir’s mix to create a host of heavenly song. Elsewhere, on “Duniya” (“The World”), the tempo slows to a processionary pace as Singh, punctuated poignantly by echoing guitar, humming bass and sighing harmonium, cries out a prayer for our ailing world.

Singh channels all the energy of the preceding tracks on the penultimate number, “Rebel.” He cedes the mic to poets Ali Mir and Sham-e-Ali Nayeem, who spit rhymes of quiet, burning rebellion while Singh (on trumpet and dhol) leads horns and percussionists through winding, hypnotic and elastic melodies that culminate in a militant but triumphant burst of brass.

The album ends with a 97-second meditation between Singh on trumpet—channeling moody, muted Miles Davis—and guitarist Jonathan Goldberger, a frequent Red Baraat collaborator. “Rahao” is a term in Sikh religious texts that instructs the reader to pause and repeat the previous line. Singh’s message is clear: Flip the record back over, continue to absorb the messages of spiritual and political striving, and never stop developing that positive force within.

Learn more about Chardi Kala at Amazon and Apple Music


Jackson Sinnenberg

Jackson Sinnenberg is a broadcast journalist and writer based in Washington, D.C. He serves as an editor for Capitalbop, a non-profit that focuses on presenting live jazz and covering the D.C. jazz scene through grassroots journalism. He’s covered the city’s local jazz scene since 2015 but has covered national and international jazz, rock and pop artists for a variety of publications. He graduated from Georgetown in 2015 with a degree in American Musical Culture and will gladly argue why Kendrick Lamar is a jazz musician. Follow him @sinnenbergmusic.