11 May 2009

M for Music. M for Manooghi Hi.

I am not, repeat NOT, a big believer in 'fusion' music or 'fusion' anything. I am hopelessly old-fashioned with my music and I don't like adulteration in any form. Don't mistake this for me not knowing my music. I'm happy to say I know music and it knows me and we have a deep and meaningful relationship that has not been interrupted for 36 years. And then a few months ago, along came this upstart called Manooghi Hi, who challenged my ideas about global music and wagged a mongrel finger and said: Hey, listen here and suspend your prejudices. Or you're not worth the paper you write on. My first instinct was to ask the upstart to leave and go back to my Chet Baker but like an obstinate child, it pulled out its bag of tricks, undeterred and played.

I am not, repeat NOT, easily impressed. In fact, trying to impress me will have the opposite effect and I was about to warn the upstart about this when I heard something.

And I saw Buddha here
And I met Jesus there
And I heard Hendrix there
And I felt Shiva there
And I touched Gandhi there
And Andy Warhol there
He just didn't care
He was in his underwear

I am not, repeat NOT, immune to clever poetry. Especially if it smacks of Miss Dorothy Parker and offends the general ignorant populace. As the cheeky little offender continued to play unbidden, I found my tongue clapped to the roof of my mouth while the lead singer twisted the sinews of urban poesie to curl around the belly of a raga and throw itself shamelessly naked upon the flat back of the tabla before being delicately stomped on by the piano and finally disappearing into the mist of a final rising violin's note.

I'm an elevator
Where everyone pretends to be alone
I'm a hotel
Where everyone pretends to be at home

I am not, repeat NOT, easily fooled by ideas stolen from T.S. Eliot but I am astounded when they are strung like offerings around the Hindu goddess Kali's neck and hang there in perfect harmony like pearls embedded in skulls.

I am not, repeat NOT, immune to the beauty of various pure languages. When I heard English, Hindi, Bengali, Persian and Tamil slide in and out of songs without losing the shimmering thread and balance between lyric and melody, even though metre was unconventionally seduced, I was an espresso short of being completely mesmerised.

I am not, repeat NOT, interested in namby pamby praise or advertising. Probably why I'm unemployable. So in the spirit of full disclosure, Mehnaz, the lead singer, is a friend. If you call being overly critical of every last full stop and comma of her work, friendship. She will attest to this with a painful smile. The rest of the Seattle-based band are strangers to me.

I am not, repeat NOT, going to tell you how great Manooghi Hi is. I would rather credit you with a brain and ears. If you're certain that you are strong enough and open enough to deal with the volcanic inner core of their lyricism, then log on to their site and listen. www.manooghihi.com.

I am not, repeat NOT, going to admit I'm a shameless groupie.


Dana said...

Thanks for this post Kamal. I spent a good part of this evening on the Manooghi Hi site and I may even end up downloading the album on iTunes. I thought about how best to describe what I heard tonight and then I found the right word in your post. Mesmerizing.

Unknown said...

Dana ahoj! I am so glad you liked their music. It's truly a joy to discover quality creations in this highly over-communicative world. Enjoy!