Revolutionary Eternal Optimism
Chardi Kala ਚਰਦੀ ਕਲਾ
Couple of weeks ago, I received an email from somebody whom I did not know. It was from a man named Sonny Singh, who has regularly played with his band Red Baraat in Asheville, North Carolina. He heard my program East to West and introduced me to his new music, proposing that it might be a good fit for the program.
I was intrigued, and listened. The video and the music were mesmerizing and captivating. Needless to say, I loved it. I thought it would be worth it to call to Sonny for a short interview to introduce his music to the audience of East to West.
The conversation was at ease and I had an opportunity to learn about this talented musician, his work and the message he is trying to deliver.
Sonny was born in Punjab, a region in the northern part of India. He is a Brooklyn based artist, musician and an activist. Sonny started as a Sikh devotional music
Sonny’s first musical outlet as a child growing up in Charlotte, NC was kirtan—Sikh devotional music. Like many Sikh kids, he learned basic harmonium and tabla and would regularly do kirtan at Sikh camps and gurdwaras. His energy shifted to other types of music as he became a more serious musician—ska, reggae, funk, punk rock, bhangra, and more. Over the years, he has shared the stage with many musical icons and heroes and has toured the world as an original member of Red Baraat.
To listen to the the entire program click here.
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.
Sonny’s music is deeply influenced by his Sikh faith, as music is a form of a spiritual practice and a way to connect to ourselves, each other and the divine. The message behind Sikh poetry is of Oneness of humanity and the divine. It means that we must do anything in our power to fight for respect and justice for all people
In his interview Sonny spoke about delivering and spreading a message for people to rise.
Chardi Kala.- Revolutionary Eternal Optimism, meaning even at the darkest of days and the hardest of times, we have an obligation to stay optimistic and hopeful, if we center love and oneness, we can overcome achieve justice. Such a beautiful message is worth promoting.
Sonny hopes that his music can lift the spirits of those who are fighting for justice and liberation, and for those who are not, perhaps the music can serve as a wakeup call for action
In 5 years, Sonny is hoping that his new music can make an impact on people with multiple back rounds, and to help those people connect and reflect on how they make a positive change in the world. Sonny believes music is powerful and so much can be communicated through sounds and melodies.
An original member of the Brooklyn bhangra brass band Red Baraat, Sonny has launched a new solo project inspired by Sikh kirtan that has received praise from NPR Music, Rolling Stone India, and HuffPost in its first few months. Named ‘Chardi Kala’ for the Sikh concept of revolutionary eternal optimism, the album is being produced by three-time Grammy winner Wil-Dog Abers of Ozomatli, and represents a return to Sonny’s early Punjabi & Sikh roots, as seen now through the lens of his experiences over the course of his life as a touring musician, educator, and activist.
Lyrics: traditional (YouTube Video)
Live in eternal optimism, with ever-rising spirits
Shout aloud in ecstasy, true is the great timeless One
Nanak, with Naam (Name) comes eternal optimism, and with your blessings, peace and well-being for everyone
Revolutionary Eternal Optimism (Links)
Amazon Music: https://music.amazon.com/artists/B00BHL8XLY/sonny-singh