Album Review of
Chardi Kala

Written by Joe Ross
March 12, 2023 - 10:57am EDT
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Peaking at #7 on the Roots Music Report's Top 50 World Album Chart, Sonny Singh’s debut solo album Chardi Kala encourages us to “live in eternal optimism, with ever-rising spirits,” and the uplifting dance music is both inspiring and inspired by the Sikh concept. Taking Punjabi musical traditions to a greater worldwide audience, the singer and trumpet player creates an energizing, jangling groove that is lush, hypnotic and easy on the ears. You may know Sonny Singh from his work with the pounding bhangra band, Red Baraat. With a style that sounds like a street brass band in Delhi infused with jazz and rock elements, Sonny Singh enlists a large cadre of stellar musicians to assist him on guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, brass and vocals. A few tracks even layer in colorings of Indian drums, harmonium, sarangi (a short-necked bowed instrument), violin, mandolin and even some poetry recitations (written by Kartar Singh Sarabha) in “Rebel.”    

Some of Singh’s music has deep, funky dance grooves. Other selections flow and ebb with infectious and intoxicating melodic fluidity with elements from traditional Sikh kirtan, Sufi qawwali and even more global sounds.  With its graceful presence and reflective character, Chardi Kala is an action-packed ride of creativity and musical imagination.  Standout tracks include “Aisee Pree,” “Koi Bol Ram,” “Sajana Tere Bina” and for something gentle and reflective, the short contemplative closer, “Rahao.”

Now based in Brooklyn, 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).  As he became more serious about his music, his energy shifted to ska, reggae, funk, punk rock, bhangra, and more. In 2003, Sonny co-founded the political rock band Outernational and recorded an album. Red Baraat formed in 2008, toured globally and recorded five studio albums. Sonny has also performed with many notable artists.

Global music at its best, dynamically arranged with a big sound but also profound messages of love, hope, harmony, respect, dignity, justice and resilience, Sonny Singh’s Chardi Kala is a daring tour de force that yields bountiful rewards. The only drawback is that the songs’ prolific messages might get lost due to the lack of translation. The orchestration also seem to favor a more clarion sound over the emotive or evocative lyrical meanings. However, on a broader scale, the universal appeal of this world music will also encourage greater communication, collaboration, peace and understanding. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)