Brooklyn-Based Singer and Trumpet Player Sonny Singh Announces Sophomore Album 'Sage Warrior'

Jun 13, 2024 10:30 AM
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Jun 13, 2024
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Sonny Singh announces his sophomore record, Sage Warrior along with the joyful first single, Pavan Guru.

Sonny Singh, photo credit: Ernest Stuart
Sonny Singh, photo credit: Ernest Stuart

Sage Warrior is a genre-crossing, borderless, twelve-song odyssey into ancestral wisdom from the critically acclaimed singer, trumpeter, and songwriter Sonny Singh. The album explores the Sikh spirit of the sant sipahi, the sage warrior: the sage leads with love; the warrior answers the call to courage. Introspective and urgent, spiritual and rebellious, the album offers bold new renditions of Sikh devotional poems from South Asia, channeling ancestral wisdom for our time. Singh created the album as a companion to the new book Sage Warrior by visionary civil rights leader and bestselling author Valarie Kaur. Each track on the album accompanies a chapter in the book. Together, the Sage Warrior book and album offer an electrifying multisensory experience of Sikh wisdom—a clarion call to love, devotion, and courage in dark times.

Brooklyn-based Sonny Singh is celebrated for bold and joyous musical innovation. For the last two decades, Singh gained renown as an original member of the band Red Baraat, performing on stages globally with his fiery trumpet and voice. He embarked on a solo career to explore bold new renderings of Sikh devotional music. In 2022, he released his solo debut Chardi Kala to critical acclaim: “Singh has done that rarest of rare things as a musician—he has actually charted new ground…” (Bhanuj Kappal, Live Mint). His album carved out a new space in the landscape of spiritual music: “This is Indian devotional music as Western pop with a trumpet as a driving force. To hear it is to realize there’s not much else like it anywhere” (Bruce Miller, PopMatters).

Now with his second album, Singh ushers us into altogether new experiences of the sacred through music, poetry, and song. The album was produced by Grammy-nominated Kaveh Rastegar, who has worked with Sting, John Legend, Ringo Starr, and De La Soul. Sage Warrior features a virtuosic roster of musicians on guitars, Punjabi and western drums, horns, harmonium, and synths. The result: a rich sonic journey into the world of Sikh music and beyond. At moments, traditional Punjabi rhythms transport us to the riverbanks of Punjab, where Sikh ancestors sang the sacred poems. In the next moment, we are ushered into bold new experiments in global music through soaring trumpets and epic electric guitar-driven melodies. In every track, Sonny’s powerful voice is our guide, as in the words of Annie Mok of Bandcamp Daily: “Singh’s voice arrives, like the breaking of morning sunlight, a bursting open of joy.”

The Sage Warrior album is genre-crossing, borderless, devotional, and new –

  • In Sachau Orai, Sonny’s music pulsates with reggae and dub, a nod to the spiritual roots of reggae music, connecting Sikh wisdom with a vibrant global call to action: “Higher than truth is the living of truth.”
  • In Jaano Jot, Sonny offers an anthemic declaration to dismantle caste and all forms of oppression, with a catchy Punjabi-cumbia groove: “Know the light within all, ask not of caste / there are no hierarchies in the world beyond.”
  • In Taati Vao, a sacred poem for protection, Sonny’s powerful voice and layered electric guitars shelter the listener with epic melodies: “Hot winds cannot touch me, I am shielded by the Infinite.”
  • In Begampura, the sage-poet Ravidas dreams of “a place without despair.” Through dreamy, lush, layered vocal harmonies, Sonny invites us to imagine a world without cruelty or agony, and to feel the possibility of liberation in our bodies.

In making the album, Singh worked closely with Valarie Kaur as she wrote the book Sage Warrior. Singh composed new renditions of the sacred poems, shabds, that appear in each story. Singh sent her music demos as she wrote; she sent him chapters as he composed. The book inspired the album; the album inspired the book; both were inspired by Sikh wisdom. Fittingly, the penultimate track of the album features Kaur reading an excerpt of the book to an introspective improvisational soundscape in a piece called Rebirth.

“Sonny’s music captures the spirit of the sage warrior–a full-throated embrace of Oneness, and courageous call to action,” says Valarie Kaur. “He is a profoundly gifted artist, activist, and thinker who embodies revolutionary love in being and breath. It was an electrifying experience to listen to his music as I wrote, and for my writing in turn to shape the music. The book and album were birthed together.”
Singh explains, “As Valarie would send me first drafts of each chapter of the book, the music flowed out of me with so much ease. Her writing puts our community’s history and struggles into language that I needed to hear—that our generation needs to hear. I hope my music helps the ancient wisdom Valarie unearths in her book land in the hearts of listeners.”

This fall, amid what promises to be our most contentious and destabilizing election season yet, the Sage Warrior book and album will forge a path toward courage, connection, and love. Starting in September 2024, Singh will join Kaur on a Revolutionary Love Tour to bring their stories and music to audiences across the country. Album, book, and visual art (by Sikh artist Keerat Kaur) woven together, the Sage Warrior project is a multisensory, audio-visual experience, a new offering of Sikh wisdom, a doorway into the revolutionary love movement, and medicine for everyone hungry for hope, healing, liberation, and joy.

Sonny Singh, 'Sage Warrior', album cover art
Sonny Singh, 'Sage Warrior', album cover art

Pavan Guru is the first single from Brooklyn-based singer and trumpet player Sonny Singh’s forthcoming sophomore album. With this new music comes a deepening of Sonny’s borderless exploration of ancient Sikh wisdom that was the heart of his debut album Chardi Kala in 2022, which JazzTimes called “vibrant, ebullient, and energized.”

Pavan Guru is Sonny’s original rendition of a widely recited poem about the mystical Oneness found in nature, written by Guru Nanak, founder of the Sikh faith (full translation below). Produced by Grammy-nominated bass player and musician Kaveh Rastegar, Pavan Guru begins with layered electric guitar soundscapes and Sonny’s voice soaring, inviting listeners into a space of reflection, before galloping Punjabi rhythms on the dholki and tabla and meditative trumpet melodies lead the way.  

“I have been reciting and singing the words in this shabad [devotional song] my whole life,” Sonny explains. “It is humbling to bring my own musical voice and sensibility to these verses that are so special for millions of Sikhs around the world – and to be able to share them with new audiences outside our community.”

Sonny Singh’s new album, called Sage Warrior, is set to release on September 6th, alongside a book by the same name by his longtime friend and Sikh activist and writer Valarie Kaur (One World, 9/10/24).

English Translation by Valarie Kaur, with Dolly Kaur Brar, Nirinjan Kaur Khalsa, and Jasvir Kaur Rababan

Air our teacher, water our father
Mother Earth, the great womb
Day and night are both midwife and caregiver
The whole world plays in their embrace

What we do, good and destructive,
is read in the court of account
By our actions and ours alone, we draw close or drift afar

Those who contemplate the mystical name
and have labored faithfully
Oh Nanak, their faces are radiant
and many more are freed with them

Sonny Singh, 'Pavan Guru', single artwork
Sonny Singh, 'Pavan Guru', single artwork

About 'The Sage Warrior' Book By Valarie Kaur:

Sage Warrior is far more than a book – it’s a sacred invitation.” — Brené Brown, Ph.D., Author of the #1 NYT Bestseller Atlas of the Heart

In the book, Sage Warrior, out on September 10, 2024 (One World), Kaur presents an imaginative retelling of 250 years of epic history of the first Sikhs. In a time riven by caste, conquest, and cruelty, the first Sikhs forged new path of the sant sipahi, the sage warrior—a figure who embodies both the sage, full of love and awe for the world as it is, and the warrior, who fights for the world as it ought to be. Each chapter focuses on a single Sikh Guru, or spiritual leader, and woman ancestor, and corresponding lesson. In the album, Singh brings each sacred poem to life. In Sikh tradition, music is the primary vehicle for wisdom: through musical poetry, wisdom lands in the body, mind, and heart.

Hailed as “a brilliant gem” by Michelle Alexander, author of the New Jim Crow, Sage Warrior offers us a new way to think about how we cultivate a discipline of courage, pleasure, and connection in seemingly catastrophic times, inspired by a rich and surprising wisdom tradition that many have very likely never explored.  

Valarie Kaur, portrait
Valarie Kaur

About:

Simultaneously spiritual and rebellious, Sonny Singh’s music is a reminder that hope, love, and devotion are crucial to our struggles and our collective survival. Sonny’s debut solo album, produced by Wil-Dog Abers of Ozomatli, is entitled Chardi Kala, the Sikh concept of revolutionary eternal optimism. Gothamist calls it “utterly irresistible.” JazzTimes calls Sonny’s music, “vibrant, ebullient, and energized...a prayer for our ailing world.” Live Mint says, “Singh has done that rarest of rare things as a musician—he has actually charted new ground, pushing the idea of South Asian fusion music down a new, previously unexplored side path.”

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). His energy shifted to other types of music as he became a more serious musician: ska, reggae, funk, punk rock, bhangra, and more. In 2003, Sonny co-founded the political rock band Outernational and recorded an album produced by Tom Morello. As a singer and trumpet player, he has been central to the sound and raw energy of Red Baraat since the band's inception in 2008, touring globally and recording 5 studio albums. Sonny released his debut solo album, Chardi Kala, in May 2022.

Sonny’s new music has been featured on GRAMMY.com, NPR Music, Rolling Stone India, HuffPost, Songlines Magazine, Brooklyn Vegan, and WNYC’s New Sounds. Sonny’s band has performed at the Brooklyn Museum, Carnegie Hall Citywide, MASSMoCA, O+ Festival, Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), and The White House for President Joe Biden’s 2023 celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage. Weaving in story-telling and political/spiritual education, the live show, which includes harmonium, electric guitar, tabla, and dhol, provides audiences with an uplifting space for reflection and action.

Sonny’s second album, Sage Warrior, is set to release on September 6, 2024, alongside a book by the same name by activist and writer Valarie Kaur. They will tour nationally together September-October 2024.

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Release Summary

Brooklyn-based singer and trumpet player Sonny Singh announces sophomore album 'Sage Warrior'. 'Sage Warrior' is out September 6, 2024, alongside a book by the same name by activist and writer Valarie Kaur. The album is produced by Grammy-nominated Kaveh Rastegar and features a virtuosic roster of Sikh and non-Sikh talent on guitars, Punjabi and western drums, horns, harmonium, and synths. The first single, 'Pavan Guru' is out now.

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