Pakistani-American singer Arooj Aftab may be the first Pakistani woman to be nominated for a Grammy and the first Pakistani woman to be nominated for Best New Artist and Best Global Performance, but she doesn’t want those accolades to define her.
The ‘Mohabbat’ singer told the radio WYPR in a recent interview, “Being nominated as Best New Artist, to me, feels like all the work I’ve done, not being different and not always being considered ‘new age’ or ‘world music’ or ‘international folk.'” For Aftab, the lack of qualifiers in the Best New Artist category is a “monumental triumph” in itself.
While her work is appreciated and she’s “thrilled” to have her music recognized by the music industry’s highest awards show, Aftab told the radio station that she’s also cynical. the idea that the world appreciates him because he often recognizes musicians based on their distinctions. .
Asked about the “new” aspect of the category she’s nominated for, Aftab said, “It’s not unusual in the music business to be introduced as a new artist when you’ve been in it for a long time. Watch Julius Eastman, Jeff Buckley and Eva Cassidy, like look at these people who became so famous after they had to leave and die That’s not it I’m still alive and I’m just glad it’s happening while I’m still in my thirties.” She described it as a “pleasant and dramatic surprise” for which she is grateful and hopeful for what comes next for her.
For her, the journey and transition to Sufi music began when, years ago, she performed at a music festival in Pakistan where she deliberately waited and met Sufi legend Abida Parveen and had sang “Man Kunto Maula” with her. “I shouldn’t have done that because I was so young and it’s probably very bad,” Aftab said of singing with Parveen, however, she perfected it on her debut album “Bird Under Water. “.
From her first studio album to the last, 12 years after meeting Parveen, Aftab is still into Sufi music because of Rumi’s 13th century poetry that she read in college. “He stayed on the page for a bunch of years and then at one point there was a jam with a friend of mine and he was just playing reggae and I just started singing. flew off the pages, in a melody and in my voice,” Aftab said.
As for her connection to Pakistani music, the singer believes that Pakistanis culturally are never without music and poetry, never without some form of art and dance. “It’s part of the tapestry, it’s just everywhere,” she said. The singer was recently seen on Coke Studio Season 14 with Asfar Hussain performing the song “Mehram.” Aftab is also [first Pakistani artist] will perform this year at the American music festival Coachella alongside artists such as Harry Styles, Lil baby, Billie Eilish, Megan Thee Stallion, Disclosure, 21 Savage, Stromae and many other artists.
It was also featured in former US President Barack Obama’s music playlist that he loved to listen to during the summer of 2021. Aftab’s song “Mohabbat” was mentioned alongside songs by artists such as Stevie Wonder, The Rolling Stones and Rihanna.