28 September 2009

Monday's mp3: Things that make you go Humm

CD REVIEW
Manooghi Hi: Manooghi Hi
(Sunny Park Productions)

Maybe it's some sort of "six degrees of Indian fusion." But it was definitely more than coincidence that while I was hanging out after the Delhi 2 Dublin show at Bumbershoot, I got to talking with Ava Chakravarti. Ava, it turns out, is part of an unusual 7-member Seattle-based group whose music could be described as Indian fusion...sort of. In Manooghi Hi's modern global sound, rock, soul, and funk blend with traditional Indian rhythms and instruments and mixed Sanskrit and English lyrics. The music echoes the journey of lead singer Mehnaz, a Mumbai native now uprooted and living in the Pacific Northwest. Her formidable vocal chops are clear on "Duma Dum Mast Kalandar," a traditional devotional song that moves from calm to swirling ecstasy.

Mehnaz has been compared to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, which may be more accurate in style than in impact. But give her a few decades, and we'll see. For now, her dynamic voice is just one part of the sound of Manooghi Hi, along with great keyboard work by Mark Nichols and thick fuzzy guitar by Todd Fogelsonger. "Kismet" simply rocks, while the ballad "Bubbles" curiously steers clear of guitar and most percussion, a sweet respite from the band's take-no-prisoners energy. If the arrangements hit you like a monsoon, the songwriting lends a bit of playful Holi color. Amid the Psychedelia-turned-rock-anthem "Kali" comes the refrain "stick out your tongue / stick out your tongue." One of my favorite tracks is "Humm," with its clever rap and multilingual approach to global communication: "Are you speaking my language / or is this the right question?" Perhaps the right question is why it took this force of nature masquerading as a band to come to our attention.

[mp3] Manooghi Hi: Humm
from the album Manooghi Hi

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