Review: Bhajan Bhoy ‘Shanti Shanti Shanti’

Ajay Saggar has been performing music since the mid-1980s starting with Preston’s Dandelion Adventure (fans including My Bloody Valentine, John Peel and The Pastels) before moving to The Netherlands in 1991 where he formed Donkey, The Bent Moustache and King Champion Sounds. More recent projects have included Deutsche Ashram, The Common Cold, Volksempfänger, University Challenged and of course his solo venture Bhajan Bhoy.

Bhajan Bhoy 'Shanti Shanti Shanti' Artwork
Bhajan Bhoy ‘Shanti Shanti Shanti’ Artwork

Sagger also made an appearance in Dinosaur Jr’s Freakscene music video and acted as a sound engineer for that band as well as Mogwai, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Sleater-Kinney. As Bhajan Bhoy he’s released the 2020 debut album Bless Bless, the That Summer Oh Creator! EP, and the two volume To Love Is To Love set. When I spotted Belinda Butcher’s (My Bloody Valentine) endorsement of Shanti Shanti Shanti on the respective Bandcamp page, it marked a huge deciding factor in my choosing to cover it for The Shaman.

Cat On Arkensgarthdale is a psychedelic trippy space jam with kosmische guitar ala Manuel Göttsching (Ash Ra Tempel/Ashra). Its laden with reverb loveliness which should help you unwind after a stressful day; it certainly did me after spending an anxiety induced morning searching for a parking space in Preston. Grr… My knowledge of dub is pretty basic and limited to Lee Stratch Perry, The Bug, and both The Clash and the Bad Brains forays into it. However, even for a novice like me, Red, Green & Gold offers ample sonic delights. Not only is dub featured but so are electronica, ambient and sampling. All of this render it more approachable for passing listeners such as myself.

Stokely’s Rebellion references the civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael and features a short narrative precis of Carmichael as well as various speeches by the man himself. The use of such samples by prominent black political leaders is hardly a novel concept in music as the likes of Public Enemy would testify to. However, the accompanying music is, which in this case takes the form of blissed out drones and shoegaze style effects. This elevates the track into something altogether more original.

a psychedelic trippy space jam with kosmische guitar…

Putting politics to one side, Kosmos Klub is experimental catchy ‘70s electro krautrock, which while hardly occupying the same league as say Kraftwerk’s The Model, serves as a pleasant enough interlude nonetheless. Won’t You Wait? takes on a more oriental hue, at times reminding me of the late, great Ryuichi Sakamoto (RIP). There is also a meditative quality to the music with a title suggestive of the need to slow down and observe rather than immediately springing into action. Sublime.

I Love You So is much Jazzier recalling the eastern sounds pioneered by Yusef Lateef and some fantastic drumming in tow that easily matches the likes of Max Roach and Lenny Smith. Doo Wop-ish vocals are also present at the start and end of the track, and taken in totality, makes for an astonishing piece as well as a personal favourite. As you’d expect from a track titled Van Cleef Dub there is inevitably a Morricone/country-ish desert vibe mixed in with the ubiquitous dub sounds, which is unsurprising seeing as Lee Van Cleef (who the title refers to) starred in Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy. Another extraordinary musical feat and it really looks like Saggar saved the album’s two best tracks for last.

I didn’t have any expectations when I got hold of the promo from The Shaman, but I was left pleasantly surprised. The playing is exemplary and the music both inventive and interesting making me curious to investigate more.

Label: Cardinal Fuzz Records | Feeding Tube Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: Reza Mills