Review: Arooj Aftab’s ‘Raat Ki Rani’ is caressing, controlling and all-consuming

Review: Arooj Aftab’s ‘Raat Ki Rani’ is caressing, controlling and all-consuming

The song is my idea of a night in with Aftab's musings gently tugging at my heartstrings.
Updated 19 Apr, 2024

Light, dark, soothing, haunting — it’s all the same to Arooj Aftab, who faintly whispers words of healing into my ears as I awaken to the title track of her upcoming album, Raat Ki Rani (Night Reign).

A child of the night, a drop in the ocean — ‘Raat Ki Rani’ is as infused with creativity as it is with modulation. Melancholic and blissful, the track marks the first time Aftab has used auto-tune in her music. Production-heavy compared to her previous tracks, ‘Raat Ki Rani’ is still relatively simple and to the point, catering to a larger audience. It is not niche music but it isn’t Aftab’s way of fitting in either. She doesn’t care about that.

The song is somewhere in between, floating without drowning in the space it occupies. ‘Raat Ki Rani’ is like water — pure and self-purifying. Like the river — forging its own path. It is a product of dreams, fantasies and gentle heartaches. A song I wish Aftab could sing me to sleep with. A lullaby, caressing, controlling, consuming.

There is so much power in Aftab’s voice even as it emerges from the background — as though emerging from a chamber carried by the music surrounding it. Its impact and reach is unmatched.

The musical details in ‘Raat Ki Raani’ are also very interesting. The song kicks off with minimal percussiveness that follows a fixed groove but has an organic movement about it. It builds up like an orchestra, only to introduce a playful piano that anchors it. Its delicate sound defies modern expectations and features ethnic vibes.

There is so much buildup and breakdown happening in ‘Raat Ki Rani’ but one hardly feels it because of its seamless execution. Aftab plays with spaces in the song just like she did in Love In Exile, her collaborative album with Vijay Iyer and Shahzad Ismaily. Ismaily is also part of ‘Raat Ki Rani’, which explains a lot.

Owing to this negative spacing, every sound feels like a ripple in the ocean. There is emphasis laid on each instrument, the piano solo is backed by delicate percussiveness, followed by gentle strumming on the harp that carries the music like waves.

Aftab lets the music have its moment before she returns with her gentle whispers, detailing her encounter with the lady of the night — her voice breathing life into the final moments of the song before it fades into abyss, leaving behind emotions that can only be felt and never explained.

The singer dropped the song yesterday, alongside a video marking Creed and Thor actor Tessa Thompson’s directorial debut. ‘Raat Ki Rani’ is a song about “a person whose allure, magnetism, and charisma floats through a beautiful evening garden party,” as per Aftab’s statement to Stereogum.

A follow-up to her 2021 Vulture Prince, Aftab’s upcoming album is a nine-song collection focused on the “magic and mystery of the late-night hours and all that can happen after dark.”


Taj Ahmad Apr 19, 2024 07:00pm
Simply great and amazing efforts, keep it up.
A Mandal Apr 20, 2024 01:24pm
Insipid and morose video just like song.
Neutral Apr 21, 2024 01:54am
No clue what she wanted to Express by the lyrics or visuals, promoting a different avenue dont feel like WOW. Dont know why a complete article on such stupidity