Do sitars belong in a thread about guitars?
I was thinking about the soundtrack of Super Mario 64 this week (for obvious reasons) and, while the 3D Mario game soundtracks are mainly known for their big band energy and heavy use of brass, I considered for the first time that Mario 64’s soundtrack – like everything else in the game – served as a demo of the fake instrumental possibilities of the N64 with tracks specifically tailored around one or two lead instruments (be it a glockenspiel, brass, violins, a vibraphone, bongos, an oboe, a piano etc.).
Anyway, Bowser’s battle theme is a rather obvious electric guitar with a cheesy hard rock gimmick, typical of such Boss themes and not all that interesting to bring up, but what really drew my attention is the fake sitar used in Lethal Lava Land.
Not only is sitar a rather uncommon chords instrument in video games but it is almost always used as a cultural artifact to place the game in India-adjacent lore (or arabic/persian landscapes for the lazier attempts). Here is Quackshot’s Maharadjah theme for instance. In Mario 64, the atypical modulation of the sitar is instead used to color the heatwave blur of the lava level, completely detached from any cultural “stigma”, which I find interesting.