Manooghi Hi
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Manooghi Hi

Seattle, Washington, United States | SELF

Seattle, Washington, United States | SELF
Band Rock Avant-garde




"India rocks for Mehnaz - June 2011"

Jun 18, 2011, 01.04pm IST TNN[ Deepali S Dhingra ]

Mehnaz With Mehnaz hitting the music scene with her second album ‘Silence’ with her American band Manooghi Hi, we can’t help but expect something of India in her songs. And Mehnaz affirms that.

The song ‘Where India begins’ has a strong connect with the country. “The song was inspired by a poem written by a soldier in 1943, defending Calcutta and his vision of how India looked to him, a country he had never visited. Written by producer Todd Fogelsonger and performed as a duet by him and me, we each relate to it in our own way,” says Mehnaz. She adds that the lines came almost instantaneously, because the feeling of nostalgia is not foreign to anyone. “It describes most beautifully, a longing within the human soul for home and parents when one is so far away in a foreign land. I identify completely with that feeling and can trace my life’s journey back to the day when my dream was to become a singer, I became a pop star in India and now in an International Rock band. This makes me crave to return home with Manooghi Hi, only to introduce my two most enriching and beautiful worlds,” she says. The singer explains how Todd, having traveled to India, was greatly struck by one particular line in the song, “the future a little brighter”. “Here is a country where in her imperfections lies her perfection, he says and I couldn’t agree more with his beautiful compliment to my motherland,” she says with a smile - Times of India

"I'm living my dream - Mehnaz / June 2011"

Jun 6, 2011, 12.00am IST TNN[ Deepali S Dhingra ]

Mehnaz (seated below) with band members Jimmy Thomas, John Hollis, Kent Halvorsen, Todd Fogelsonger and Ava Chakravarti The last we heard from Mehnaz, the Indi-pop diva, was that she had become the lead vocalist in an American rock band Manooghi Hi two years back. Since then, we have wondered what the lady with the amazing vocals (Remember Banoongi Main and Mausam?) has been upto.

Well, her band is ready with their second album and the singer says she would love to come down to India soon. “I crave to return home with Manooghi Hi, only to introduce my two most enriching and beautiful worlds,” she says. Excerpts from an interview...

Your second album Silence, tell us a bit about that?
Manooghi Hi started on a journey which started from classic rock and evolved into our current album Silence. As the song reads It only gets louder with powerful themes of evolution, unity, rebirth and liberation. Tracks such as Kismet, My Friends and the titlesong spin the listener around the musical globe in a dizzying and raucous storm, while other selections like Space that Drops In, Everything and Where India Begins paint vivid scenes of growth, dimension and personal reflection that can be experienced in all cultures, by all ages, in any time.

The album has released in Seattle and will release in India in July, are you planning to come down for a concert or performance anytime soon?
Although I now live in Seattle and front an all-American band, I’m still very culturally and musically rooted in India. My Mumbai upbringing and the influences that penetrate the music of our band is very much the soul of India, it’s only natural that we want to perform in India, even perhaps collaborate with similar Indian artists. It seems only a matter of logistics and time before I can bring my amazing band back home.

How do you keep your relationship with Indian music alive?
My relationship with Indian music is more alive than ever! Manooghi Hi has given me a new found appreciation for Indian music and it motivates me to dig deeper into our musical roots and influences. I see myself experimenting and exploring more than I imagined, as a singer and as a writer. While I learn never-before tried styles of pure American classic rock, the band is learning the broader nuances of Indian classical music. The idea is to strike a healthy balance between the Indian and Western influences.

Bollywood is huge in India, would you like to sing for any Hindi film?
Yes, we absolutely would. At a time when the industry is entering a period of change and the powers that be are not afraid to experiment, new sounds can only compliment and improve the overall cinematic experience. I also think our songs are very well suited for Bollywood. It’s just a matter of the right opportunity coming our way.

From Banoongi Main to Manooghi Hi, how do you look upon your musical journey?
I wouldn’t change a single thing. I am living my dream every single day. It’s been a long, adventurous and enriching journey. And now I’m pursuing a different set of goals although with the same ultimate goal...creating music that expresses who I am and how I feel about life. And the band feels exactly the same way. It’s amazing when six artistic minds come together. The journey has been very rewarding both personally and professionally. - Times of India

"Manooghi Hi- East meets West and swap clothes / March 2009"

Probably the first rocker to embrace South Asian sounds in public was George Harrison, who discovered the sitar on the set of Help!, added the instrument’s resonant timbres to “Norwegian Wood,” and famously went Krishna on the second side of Sgt. Peppers. But the first cat in London to have a sitar was actually Jimmy Page. Although he couldn’t play the instrument very well (neither could George), Page’s dabbling suggests to my hopelessly romantic Orientalist mind a lost world of Hindu hard rock, a vein of kundalini metal that Zep approached in the immortal “Kashmir” but which has hardly solidified into anything like a subgenre. When I was in India in the early 90s, I did snatch up a few metal tapes from bands like Agni and the like. They were OK, and I am sure there is some ace stuff I have not and will never hear. But though Indian-influenced music has now become ubiquitous in our global soundpool—the soundtrack of yoga classes and bhangra-hip-hop hoe-downs and “Slumdog Millionaire”—it is very rarely hard.

Which is why my ears got all melty the first time I heard “Kismet,” the astounding opening track on the new album by Manooghi Hi, a South Asian / West Coast rock assemblage manned by Seattle stalwarts and fronted by a gorgeous, successful and somewhat unconventional Bombay pop singer named Mehnaz. (Full disclosure: keyboardist Mark Nichols is a pal and collaborator.) “Kismet” begins with a massive crunchy riff that immediately heads east as Mehnaz layers on a snaky melody, her Hindi echoed by a distorted guitar line. As the music downshifts into a pensive minor mood carried by “strings,” Mehnaz shifts into fluent English. The pace grows even more intimate, and she starts in on the melisma, which shimmers like a smoke rising from a burning ghat.

Mehnaz invokes a desert, and then green grass, a strange here-and-there image that resolves into a classic three cord progression that blows up into a Big Rock Elton John starburst, replete with madcap pixie strings and Beatles flashbacks. Then the band sinks back into the initial riff as Mehnaz invokes Buddha and Jesus and Hendrix and Andy Warhol, which sounds like it would be corny but actually sounds like the globe is spinning so fast that east and west really don’t mean much anymore and everybody is coming to party. Finally she starts to wail in Hindi, or maybe Bengali (what do I know?) as the final one-chord riff builds to a sheltering sky crescendo that’s about as close to “Kashmir” as I expect to hear in many a moon. Robert Plant is gonna cream in his jeans when he hears this.

Though Manooghi Hi has so far signed to an Indian label, I bet that hear it he shall. This music deserves to be big, or at least to be spread very wide, from punk poppers to yogis to Bombay hipsters. Even if the vibration of “bigness” that comes off this album is only a carefully crafted hallucination (as the rap to "Hum"suggests), Manooghi Hi has the rare sense of having found a common language that is capable of fusing and mixing very different communities of listeners while actually allowing the band to say something new and powerful. That’s a rare dynamic, and though not always successful, it sounds like it should be successful, like great arrogant MCs, and that sound itself carries global dreams.

If “Kismet” is hard rock trance, then “Om Baba,” the second track, is holy punk. You start out with ten seconds of drifty tamboura, before Mehnaz starts in with a Sanskrit mantra over a rumbling bass line that soon explodes into buzzsaw Seattle chunk rock. (Mark Nichols, the keyboardist, and Todd Fogelsonger, guitarist, were both locals schooled on grunge). Once the fury is in the house, Mehnaz jumps up a register, and you are listening to the angry—but no less spiritual—rejoinder to all that newage dreck they play in yoga class: a pissed off praise song to the guru laced with just enough sweetness to keep it from being total shtick. “Only you can shake me / break me into tiny pieces of love.”

The rest of the album does not rock as hard as these two tracks, but only because it has too much other great and surprising stuff to pull off: delirious Funkadelicized hip hop, Tori Amos searchers, wah-wah indulgence, Bollywood strings, J-pop nursery rhymes, Sufi-inspired alaps, sentimental piano balladry, psychedelic folk. But even though the styles are all over the map, the album never seems restlessly eclectic or muddled, but instead hums with an intense hunger to make music that does not skirt on top of differences but dives so deep that the molten core of unity starts to glow on the horizon. Its like those Sufi dancers who start out slowly spinning in a space with well-defined compass points until they don’t know where they are anymore, and its all a yearning blur.

Manooghi Hi are playing SXSW on March 21 at Spiro's, 7pm. - Eric Davis /

"SXSW notebook: A Seattle writer encounters Seattle bands ... in Austin / March 2009"

Funny thing about flying 1,500 miles to Austin, Texas, last week for the South by Southwest music festival: I ended up seeing a lot of faces from around here.

It's the convenience that's key. Sixth Street, the main drag of SXSW, runs straight through downtown Austin. Fifty-some venues are clustered there in a 10-block radius, so catching snippets of three sets amid several hundred in an hour is not only possible but natural. Such a smorgasbord format is a thrill for fans but tough on performers.

For instance, Seattle lamentress Jesy Fortino, aka Tiny Vipers, struggled within the cavernous confines of the Radio Room during a March 19 Sub Pop showcase. Her soft-sung elegies also had to compete for earspace with the roaringly drunken crowd on the back patio. Locally, Fortino usually plays venues like the Triple Door or Vera Project — rooms that host reverent audiences there to be lulled and transfixed. In Austin, few gave time to the slow haunting of her songs. Similarly, on the patio stage, pastoral popsters Vetiver, one of Sub Pop's latest signees, battled the same barrage of beer-blasted noise. SXSW is a lot of things, but it's not a place for quiet reflection.

Quiet Past Lives is not. Still, their set at the Red Eyed Fly for Seattle label Suicide Squeeze's March 18 showcase was sparsely attended and seemed minimally appreciated, perhaps a result of being too weird too soon in the weekend. It was an unfortunate showing: Singer Jordan Blilie is one of Seattle's most magnetic performers, rail-thin and doubled over howling. Crowd-wise, Past Lives' ringing post rock fared better in broad daylight a few days later at the SXSeattle party. The ebb and flow of hype in SXSW is inscrutable.

In contrast, Manooghi Hi fared fairly well despite having almost no buzz going into the festival. (Not in America, at least. More on that below.) The lower the expectations, the greater the chance of surpassing them, and as a newish group that rarely plays around Seattle, Manooghi Hi was a surprising addition to the city's local presence in Austin. They deserve a mention here for originality alone: Suffice to say you've never heard anything like Manooghi Hi. Maybe because, to the best of my knowledge, their sound has never before been attempted.
To oversimplify, it's like this: panoramic rock 'n' roll fronted by a petite, beautiful Indian woman scat singing in Hindi. The cross-pollination is dizzying — East and West, ancient and modern, pop and classical, ecstatic spiritualism and headbanging rock. The potential for Rusted Root-style world groove dilettantism arises and is crushed by the frontwoman's chops. It's hard to argue her authenticity. Her name is Mehnaz, and it turns out the Mumbai native is a big deal in India, having recorded a national pop hit in 1996. Now she's working with a crew of veteran Seattle rockers in effort to do something truly unprecedented. It's an ambitious project and a stylistic departure for a town very much rooted in rock 'n' roll tradition.

Jonathan Zwickel:

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

- Seattle Times / Jonathan Zwickel

"Manooghi Hi brings Bombay-style rock to City Hall / June 2009"

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.

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
- Seattle Times / Marian Liu

"Mehnaz Hoosein to perform at Sundance Festival / Jan 2010"

Mehnaz Hoosein, the Indi-pop star of the ‘90s, will become the first Indian artiste to perform at the Sundance Film Festival. She takes the stage at the independent cinema festival that will take place in the state of Utah, US, from January 21 to 31.

Mehnaz’s performance is part of the Sundance ASCAP Music Café, a dynamic showcase for live performances by emerging and established artistes. She will perform with her Seattle-based band Manooghi Hi on January 23. The band includes all Seattle artistes like Todd Foglesonger on the guitar, Mark Nocholas on keyboard, Jimmy Thomas on bass, John Holis on percussion and drums, Jarrod Kaplan on percussions and vocalist Ava S Chakravarti.

“I was lucky to be a part of the Indi-pop scene in India. But when it faded, many independent Indian artistes like Shaan and Alisha Chinai moved to Bollywood which worked for them. I am really glad that Manooghi Hi happened to me. It exposed me to a whole new kind of music,” says Mehnaz.

She is excited about performing the song called Kali which tells the story of the goddess of darkness. “It’s very difficult to describe our sound. It has a hard rock base but with an Indian flavour,” says Mehnaz, adding, “I’d like to call it ‘Psychedelic Hindi-Rock’.”

Mehnaz has done most of the song-writing in Hindi. The band’s last self-titled album included songs like Dum A Dum Mast Kalander with a twist, Kismet, Om Baba and Humm.

“In fact, the name of the band came from Banoongi (part of the song Miss India) because it sounded like Manooghi to my band. They enjoy the Indian aspect of our music,” she ends. - DNA (India) / Suparna Thombare

"Song of the Day: Manooghi Hi - Kismet / February 2010"

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday, we deliver songs by local artists. Today’s selection, featured on the Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is “Kismet” by Manooghi Hi from their 2009 self-titled, self-released album.

Did you know that we have a great Indian band right here in Seattle? Manooghi Hi is a unique six-piece band that clashes the sounds of Bombay with the more traditional indie rock approach you would expect in Seattle. The band came together somewhat magically after front-woman Mehnaz Hoosein formed a friendship with blues singer Ava Chakravarti’s daughter. At the time, Mehnaz was already an established pop musician in her native country of India; however, it was this simple friendship that eventually led to her taking the leap Stateside. Once paired with some of Chakravarti’s mates, the Hindi-to-Indie connection was made and Manooghi Hi was formed.

“Kismet” is the opening song and an important theme on their debut album. Kismet actually means “Fate” or “Destiny” and is a great example of the diversity and uniqueness of their sound. It’s certainly different than anything you might have heard before and it’s difficult to visualize the overall vibe of the band without giving it a listen. You might not think rock ‘n’ roll mixes well with a woman scat singing in Hindi, but it works. Manooghi Hi are certainly breaking some new ground, but they seem to have all their “mojo” working. We are lucky to have a band like this in Seattle. - The KEXP blog / Jason Kinnard

"From Banoongi Main, to Manooghi Hi! / April 2009"

Singer Mehnaz has come a long way — from Banoongi Main (Miss India) to Manooghi Hi in the US of A! Confused?

Don't be. For starters, let's refresh memories. Remember the 1996 hit song Banoongi Main Miss India? Well, Indi-pop diva Mehnaz didn't quite win that crown, but she's won a place as lead vocalist in an American rock band Manooghi Hi. The band, we hear, is a super-duper hit in Seattle and has performed at music festivals worldwide, including the recently concluded SXSW Music and Media Conference (an annual event that showcases musical acts from around the globe) in Austin.

So how did the Indi-popstar go the distance and become an international rock n' roll star? As Mehnaz puts it, it all began when she decided to "flirt with destiny" and arrived in the Emerald City of Seattle to further pursue her dreams. There, she joined forces with well-known musicians who opened new avenues for her musical talent. The USP of Manooghi Hi, says Mehnaz, is originality.

"Our sound has never been attempted before, we're a band that combines two different worlds." Rock versions of Sajnaa and Duma Dum Mast Kalandar, for instance. 'Panoramic rock 'n' roll fronted by a petite, beautiful Indian woman scat singing in Hindi. The cross-pollination is dizzying — East and West, ancient and modern, pop and classical, ecstatic spiritualism and headbanging rock' — that's how a Seattle-based website describes the band. Interestingly, the name Manooghi Hi is an American misinterpretation of Banoongi Main.

To say that Mehnaz is excited about the twist in her musical journey is an understatement. "Manooghi Hi is out with their first album (a theme album based on their own story of Kismet/Destiny), and the band is now well on it's way for an India release," says Mehnaz, convinced that she has found her musical soulmates. - Times of India

"By Jonathan Zwickel August 31, 2008 | 6:46 PM Categories: Festivals, Live"

Surprise of The Day came from a band called Manhoogi Hi, a genre-bending group of Seattle locals plus a key import. With a name that screams "avoid me" (and is apparently a Hindi nonsense word), they played to a meager crowd at the Fisher Green stage, but man, what a fascinating sound. Imagine the emotional grandeur and dramatic composition of Wolf Parade fronted by a female Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. I know I'm treading all over the proper ethnicity of singer Mehnaz, who is apparently a former teen pop queen from Mumbai, India; she sang in English and Hindi, in a style called tabla boli, a scatlike patter that imitates the sound of tabla rhythms. The fact that she's playing with a crack indie trance-rock jam band from Seattle is dizzying.

Listening to Manooghi Hi's MySpace--like Shim, they're unsigned and have nothing up on Rhap--reveals a difficult truth: This music can go either way. In a sunny festival setting, drawing in a first-time listener from across the Fisher Green lawn, it was exotic and potent. At the same time the potential for swishy, hula-hoop-happy noodliness is perilously great. -


"Manooghi Hi" (self released) - March 2009

"Silence" (Mowlawner Records) - June 2011

Currently on "Classic Rock" UK Magazine July 2011 "Festival Anthems" CD Compilation.



Manooghi Hi exists as a collaboration between family, friends and international connections from a variety of backgrounds, musical and otherwise. From the day singer and Bombay, India native Mehnaz relocated to the US, she and her Northwest accomplices began constructing a new breed of rock music, mixing up rock-and-roll instrumentation and presentation with Indian scales, harmony & amp; rhythms. The resulting musical forms are unpredictable, dynamic and undeniably compelling.
March 2009 brought Manooghi Hi's self-titled debut release and a string of promotional events. The results of their experimental work became vividly clear at live performances where electric guitars, funky, florid keys and bass and a slamming rhythm section align with Mehnaz and Ava's soaring vocal gymnastics that are heavily rooted in Indian tradition and intense mysticism.

‘Seattle PI’ music critic Gene Stout describes Mehnaz as “mesmerizing and otherworldly”, while guru Erik Davis illustrates her voice as “…smoke rising from a burning ghat...” adding "Manooghi Hi has the rare sense of having found a common language that is capable of fusing and mixing very different communities of listeners while actually allowing the band to say something new and the globe is spinning so fast that east and west really don’t mean much anymore and everybody is coming to party."
Jonathan Zwickel of the ‘Seattle Times’ writes this about Manooghi Hi "Suffice to say you've never heard anything like Manooghi Hi. Maybe because, to the best of my knowledge, their sound has never before been attempted...The cross-pollination is dizzying — East and West, ancient and modern, pop and classical, ecstatic spiritualism and headbanging rock."

There is a sense of liberation and transcendence in this new music. It directly correlates to the artful fusion of eastern/western traditions that rests at the core of the band. Guitarist and producer Todd Foggelsonger once said, “Mehnaz isn’t trying to be a western singer, and we're not trying to be an Indian band,” alluding to a central notion: only by retaining a spectrum of musical identities can a truthful effort can be made to coalesce these traditions into union. It is a fresh sound from an accomplished, professional outfit which delivers exciting and focused live shows, well suited to large clubs and festival audiences.

Professional History

Since their initial performance at Seattle’s premier music venue “Triple Door” in the spring of 2007, Manooghi Hi has been featured on KING TV Channel 5's “Northwest Evening Magazine”, KCPQ Q13's “Morning Show”, Seattle Channel’s “Art Zone”, KZOK radio’s “The Bob Rivers Show”, KEXP’s local music spotlight “Audioasis” and KEXP’s online feature “Song of the Day”.
Throughout 2008-2011, Manooghi Hi has performed at multiple high-profile festivals including Seattle’s “Bumbershoot Arts Festival”, Austin’s “SXSW” music conference, “Sundance Film Festival” in Park City Utah, “Oregon Country Fair” in Eugene Oregon, Salem Oregon’s “World Music Festival” and Darrington, Washington’s “Summer Meltdown”. Manooghi Hi has played concerts for Seattle City Hall and in prestigious Northwest rock clubs including repeat performances at “Triple Door”, "Crocodile Cafe”, “Neumo’s” & “Chop Suey”. Press for Manooghi Hi has reached an international level having been notably featured in “Seattle Magazine”, “Seattle Times”, “Times of India” and recently “People” magazine in India to name a few.