It is impossible to overstate the importance of cassettes to music fanatics growing up in the 1980s. For Ajay Saggar, that included recording John Peel sessions onto cassette, taping gigs onto his Walkman and putting together mixtapes. Later, his first band, the Dandelion Adventure recorded demos tapes that were sent to record labels, venues and radio stations. His next group, Donkey, had their first official release 30 years ago on cassette. Still in love with the aesthetic quality of the format, Saggar has released the second album by his solo project, Bhajan Bhoy, as a limited edition of 100 tapes. 

Through his career, the most audible influence has been post-punk, although his most recent band, King Champion Sounds, expanded that palette substantially. However, as Bhajan Bhoy, Saggar gives full reign to his most esoteric tastes.

Opening track, ‘Cats on Arkengarthsdale’ was inspired by a hike through the Yorkshire Dales and spotting a cat near the peak far from civilisation. The piece features field recordings from that trip, explaining the track’s outdoor feel, to complement the blend of psych and drones.

‘Stokely’s Rebellion’ pays tribute to Black Power campaigner Stokely Carmichael with samples from a TV biography and his speeches over rumbling guitar loops and drum machine. In contrast, ‘Kosmos Klub’ namedrops the music podcast that Saggar produces and is a kosmische piece with electronics that would fit nicely onto a 1970s krautrock compilation.

He is joined by a couple of guests on the album. Holly Habstritt Gaal whose vocals on “Won’t You Wait?”, in a slightly askew pattern to Saggar’s, combined with blissed out guitar and Eastern-sounding instrumentation create an otherworldly ambience. ‘I Love You So’ features Ab Baars on shakuhachi, a Japanese and ancient Chinese longitudinal end-blown flute made of bamboo creating a heavy drone set against freeform jazz drums and the chilled vocal repetition of the title.

The album contains a couple of dub plates. ‘Red, Green & Gold’ is appropriately heavy, full of echo and joyous rhythm while closing track ‘Van Cleef Dub’ celebrates Lee Van Cleef with samples taken from his appearances in Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns, gunfire and melodica.

An immersive collection, best heard sitting or lying back with eyes closed to enhance the mood, ‘Shanti Shanti Shanti’ is also available as a digital download and is a superbly crafted album in any format.


Bhajan Bhoy: Shanti Shanti Shanti – Out 4th November (Wormer Bros Records)

I was editor of the long-running fanzine, Plane Truth, and have subsequently written for a number of publications. While the zine was known for championing the most angular independent sounds, performing in recent years with a community samba percussion band helped to broaden my tastes so that in 2021 I am far more likely to be celebrating an eclectic mix of sounds and enthusing about Made Kuti, Anthony Joseph, Little Simz and the Soul Jazz Cuban compilations as well as Pom Poko and Richard Dawson.