For Sunny Jain, it seems that capturing the American immigrant experience through sound is a constant well of inspiration. With his musical project Sunny Jain’s Wild Wild East, he does so with multilingual lyrics, intercontinental percussion, and a genre-bending energy suitable for a rowdy dance party or a warm Friday evening on the National Mall.
At the 2022 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Jain’s ensemble consisted of Guyanese vocalist Ben Parag, African American saxophonist Alison Shearer, American guitarist Ryan Dugre, Israeli American bassist Almog Sharvit, and Colombian percussionist Daniela Serna. This instrumental piece, “Immigrant Warrior,” opens Jain’s Wild Wild East album, released by Smithsonian Folkways in 2020.
This month, the band heads to Pakistan for a series of concerts, workshops, and university programs, supported by the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. He’ll be the first in his family to return to the region, after the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947.
Elisa Hough is the editor at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.