Who is Arooj Aftab? Pakistani singer lands Grammy nomination for Best New Artist

Pakistani singer Arooj Aftab, whose Sufi-influenced jazz sounds were on former US President Barack Obama’s summer playlist earlier this year, was nominated for Best New Artist category for the 2022 Grammy Awards .

The highest accolades in the music industry will be presented at a ceremony in Los Angeles on January 31.

Aftab, who was born in Lahore, will take on teenage phenomenon Olivia Rodrigo, 18, who burst onto the US charts in January when her single Driving license went viral. Rodrigo is also one of the most nominated artists, with a total of seven nods, including Album of the Year for her debut. Sour.

Other top new artists nominated include country music singer Jimmie Allen, rapper Baby Keem, singer Finneas (who is also the brother of singer Billie Eilish), British band Glass Animals, Korean-American rock band Japanese Breakfast, Australian star The Kid Laroi, British singer Arlo Parks and rapper Saweetie.

Aftab’s song Mohabbat, which means love, was one of the few non-English songs on Obama’s list, a tradition he has shared for a few years, even when he was in the White House.

“With so many people getting together with family and friends, there is a lot to celebrate this summer,” the former president tweeted. “Here’s a playlist of songs I’ve been listening to lately – it’s a mix of old and new, famous names and emerging artists, and many more in between.”

Who is Arooj Aftab?

Born in Lahore, Pakistan, Aftab, 36, moved to the United States in 2005 to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Now living in Brooklyn, she independently released her debut album, Bird under water, in 2015 and received critical acclaim.

Describing her sound, a fusion of jazz and Sufi music sung to Urdu lyrics, like “neo-Sufi”, she continued that success with her second album, Sirens Islands, in 2018. The New York Times included the album in his list of the 25 Best Classical Music Tracks of 2018, with writer Seth Colter Walls calling it “easily one of my favorite releases from the first half of this year.”

Mohabbat, from Obama’s summer playlist, is from Aftab’s third album, Vulture prince, released in April. Dedicated to his younger brother, Maher, who died earlier this year, the album was praised for its intensity and minimalism.

The Pitchfork music website described it as a “heartbreaking and exquisite document of the journey from grief to acceptance.”

Call Mohabbat the “centerpiece of the album,” Aftab “turns it into a slow exploration of the pain of separation,” the magazine writes.

“Aftab sings, his voice floats in a sorrow so vast that it seems to encompass the world and all the realms beyond.”

Speaking to NPR, Aftab called their latest album “very relevant” to the present day.

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“The way things went, it’s just madness. It’s crazy, and it almost sometimes feels like it’s too much. And I think that’s really the direction I threw myself in when we spun around Vulture prince – and how it got out now and what time it is out, ”she said.

“I think there is a way for artists to say something with their work that is not always very direct. It’s not always like social activism, but it’s, you know, in its subtlety and grace. He can just be there in a very small way. And I think, Vulture princeBy design, I wanted it to contain a lot of these elements.

Aftab acknowledged Obama’s recognition on Saturday, posting: “Well, it’s been wonderful to wake up! Thank you @barackobama.”

This article first appeared on July 11, 2021

Update: November 24, 2021, 6:56 a.m.

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