Singer Arooj Aftab won a Grammy on Monday for Best Global Performance. However, she won our hearts way before that with her music. Her unique take on Sufi and jazz music has us jamming along as the world celebrates her achievement.
Aftab has released three studio albums, the latest being Vulture Prince that made it to former US president Barack Obama's 2021 summer playlist with the song 'Mohabbat'. It then made it to Grammys where she won an award and became the first Pakistani to have ever received one.
Here are five songs that we enjoy by the artist.
A rendition of a famous ghazal is never taken lightly and often critiqued heavily. However, Aftab made it easy to sing along to, something to relax with and also hum along to with her rendition. With light guitar strumming in the background, 'Mohabbat' is indeed one of her best works.
The ghazal was originally written by Hafeez Hoshiarpuri and was sung by Mehdi Hasan and Farida Khanum. The original has nine couplets while Aftab only made use of three.
There's not one artist who hasn't tried the maestro Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's (NFAK) 'Halka Halka Suroor' but in Aftab's case, her putting her own spin on the ghazal captured our hearts.
The ghazal was written by Sufi poet Anwar Farrukhabadi and was sung by NFAK in 1996 for his album Sangam. Aftab's rendition can't compare to the legendary qawwal but its uniqueness and minimalism draws you in.
Considered an Urdu classic, this ghazal was written by Ustad Ghulam Ali and performed by many in the field, including Aftab, who fuses her minimal jazz music with Sufi poetry. 'Baghon Main' features the singer's husky notes with soft harp and guitar strings in the background.
Written by the singer herself, 'Udhero Na' also shares a similar vibe to her other songs — soft vocals paired with instrumental sounds. It's a collaboration with Indian singer Anoushka Shankar who, like Aftab, also performs various genres.
According to Aftab's Instagram post, the song was originally written by her in 2005 and later became part of her album Vulture Prince. All the songs in the album are about emotions and grief and 'Udhero Na' means to undo, hinting at the painful memories and the past.
This list would be incomplete without her collaboration with Coke Studio. Aftab's collaboration with Asfar Hussain, 'Mehram', had the artists sing about the emotional carnage brought on by loss.
The song is a blend of Aftab's soft notes with Hussain's high notes with soft instrumental playing in the back. The song is described as "a revelation of emotions, abandonment, and conflicting yet heartfelt conversations". In the song, the word 'Mehram' is a person that you trust completely.
Aftab's latest album has been a hit solely for her take on Sufi poetry. In an interview with WYPR the singer had said that her interest in Sufism grew when in college she started to read 13th century poetry by Rumi. Ever since the artist's inspiration can be seen or heard through her songs that are rendered from famous ghazals be it Ghulam Ali or Hoshiarpuri.
Her musical journey has just begun as the artist is ready to take over Coachella, a music festival in California starting from April 15 till 24. Aftab is the first Pakistani to perform at the festival and will be playing alongside Harry Styles, Lil baby, Daniel Caesar, Phoebe Bridgers, Big Sean, Grupo Firme, Louis the Child, Baby Keem, Snoh Aalegra, City Girls, Madeon, NIKI, Peggy Gou, Carly Rae Jepsen, The Martinez Borthers and Bishop Briggs among many others.