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Thirteen years ago, a fiery 20-something came up with a snazzy tune sung in a languorous voice, provocatively titled Banoongi mein Miss India. The music video with a quirky story line about the murky modeling world, with Mehnaz Hoosein floating in occasionally, sporting her trademark bindi and nose ring was an instant hit, and she quickly became the toast of the Indie-pop scene, quickly winning several awards, and being hailed as the female equivalent of Daler Mehndi. However, Mehnaz, now 36, almost as quickly, faded away into oblivion. "Work stopped being fun for me and my creativity vanished. I lost the urge to sing completely," says Mehnaz. Another half hearted attempt to return to singing in 2006 resulted in the album Sajna that bombed completely. But in March 2007, a musician friend based in Seattle urged her to sing with her amateur band and on a whim, Mehnaz agreed. Since then she's been the lead singer for the weirdly named Seattle based band Manooghi Hi. "Nobody in the US could pronounce 'Banoongi mein'," says Mehnaz, "So we decided on Manooghi Hi."
At her prime in Mumbai, brief though it was Mehnaz made a huge impact, performing with Gwen Stefani, Bon Jovi and even collaborated with Air Supply for a track You are the reason used by Dev Benegal in his film Split Wide Open. But now, Mehnaz says she's starting afresh in Seattle and is finally enjoying making music. "I feel I have reinvented myself after hitting rock bottom," she says. Mehnaz is touring with her new band, starting with performances at the Oregon Country Fair this month. A jumble of India inspired sounds merge with American rock-pop in, Hi, her new album. In the last year, she's been touring with her 6 member ensemble of musicians across the US. "We perform covers of Damadam mast kalandar and Dolna and some tracks from previous albums in clubs around America," she says. India, however, is very much on her agenda. In between searching for a record label for this debut album and writing songs, Mehnaz is planning out the band's India tour this October. "I feel confident and the environment in music has changed completely. This time I'm ready," she concludes.