Pakistani singer, composer and producer Arooj Aftab is the first ever Pakistani artist to win a Grammy Award this year. She was nominated for the Best New Artist award at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards in April 2022 and won the Best Global Music Performance award for her song "Mohabbat." Aftab also impressed at the 2018 Emmy Awards, winning the News & Documentary Award. She feels at home in various musical styles and idioms - including jazz, minimalism and neo-Sufi.
Aftab grew up in Lahore, Pakistan, from the age of 10 and rose to prominence in Pakistan in the early 2000s when she developed a style that combined the mystical poetry of the Sufis with the spirit of independent rock. This sound catapulted her to stardom in the then fledgling Pakistani underground and online music scene. She eventually moved to the U.S., earned a degree from the Berklee School of Music, and now lives in New York City.
Her music is inspired by the poetry and musicality of Rumi, Abida Parveen and other Sufi poets, as well as revisions of classical Pakistani and North Indian forms such as khayal and kafi. She says the words of the Sufis have influenced her writing, "It's very much about the feeling that (Sufi poetry) leaves in you: Calmness, peace, patience, simplicity. And then sadness, longing, wandering, searching, openness, oneness. I try to incorporate all these qualities into my music." She makes a point of not defining her music as retro; instead, she wants her music to be understood as a new take on an old form. She says her music is "something new that is both musically and politically attuned to today."
Her 2021 album "Vulture Prince" was named the best album of 2021 by Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant and topped the year-end list. Brenna Ehrlich placed the album sixth on Rolling Stone's "Best Music of 2021" list. The Guardian newspaper placed the album 20th on its list of "50 Best Albums of 2021," and Laura Snapes called Aftab "the biggest musical revelation of the year." Although it did not make the Los Angeles Times' top ten "Best Albums of 2021," it was still included in their list of "15 Albums of Merit."
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