Manooghi Hi plays a free show at Seattle City Hall. The "bombagrunge" band is fronted by Mehnaz Hoosein, a popular Indian pop star akin to Cyndi Lauper.
Send your ears on an aural adventure from Seattle straight to India with Manooghi Hi.
The “bombagrunge” band matches the hard beats of Seattle rock with captivating strains of Indian pop, creating a fresh mix both mesmerizing and addictive.
“It’s a combination of two cultures,” said producer and guitarist Todd Fogelsonger. “It’s not a Seattle band trying to be Indian, or an Indian singer trying to be Western.”
Mehnaz Hoosein, 36, a popular Indian pop star akin to Cyndi Lauper known for her 1996 hit song “Banoongi Mein” (“Miss India”), fronts the six-member band. They play a free show Thursday at Seattle City Hall.
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Manooghi Hi samples eight languages: English, Hindi, Persian, Sanskrit, Bengali, Urdu, Rajasthani and Mumbai slang. Tabla boli is also represented. It’s the language of drumming and rhythms, sung scat style.
The songs are deeply rooted in Indian culture, focusing on such topics as the Hindu goddess Kali, who represents the death of the ego. There is also a song called “Om Baba” that updates a Sanskrit chant into a punk piece.
“We do it out of reverence,” said keyboardist and producer Mark Nichols.
As for the name — Manooghi Hi — “manooghi” refers to one’s mojo and “hi” is the band saying hello to the world.
The way they all came together is like one of their songs, “Kismet.” Hoosein connected with the daughter of one of her father’s friends — rhythm-and-blues singer Ava Chakravarti, who now sings and acts as the band’s manager. The two started e-mailing and Chakravarti’s father suggested Hoosein take the leap and perform in Seattle. Rocking out in America was always a dream of hers.
So Chakravarti gathered up old friends, various local veteran producers and rock musicians for the gig. The first time they played together — without ever rehearsing — was in May 2007 on stage at The Triple Door. Producer Nichols was working with the main act, Nelson Sings Nilsson, and “weaseled” Manooghi Hi in.
Although Hoosein was new to the scene and her music was all in Hindi, it worked.
“The first time we played together, it was a cathartic experience,” said Nichols.
From then on, they practiced whenever Hoosein could travel to Seattle from Mumbai. So far they’ve only played 12 shows — but big shows, like Bumbershoot, an artist showcase at South by Southwest and recently the Oregon Country Fair.
Recently, Hoosein got her visa, so Manooghi Hi is planning a whole summer’s worth of concerts. As she travels, the pop singer finds herself increasingly interested in driving her own destiny, both in India and the states.
“Before, people would do everything, and I would just show up and sing,” she said. “Now, I’m beginning to know myself better and am more aware of other people and their cultures. … Success comes and goes, but being able to contribute is more important.”
Marian Liu: 206-464-3825 or firstname.lastname@example.org