Arooj Aftab is nominated again for Best Global Music Performance, after receiving her first grammy for Best Global Music Performance for the critically-acclaimed track “Mohabbat” from her third album Vulture Prince, in 2022.
Arooj Aftab had a spectacular 2021. She released her album, Vulture Prince, and quickly became a favorite on Barack Obama’s summer playlist. Brooklyn-based Pakistani artist, Arooj Aftab is now three times grammy nominee.
‘Mohabbat’, the featured single, has become the pinnacle of her career and was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Global Music Performance category, as well as a nomination for Best New Artist at the 64th Grammy Awards.
Her ground-breaking song ‘Mohabbat’ which means love or devotion in Urdu is about eight minutes long and describes the pain of separation from a loved one.
Mohabbat was one of the few non-English songs on Obama’s list, a tradition he has continued even while in the White House.
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“With so many folks getting together with family and friends, there’s 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, household names and emerging artists, and a whole lot in between.”
‘Mohabbat’ broke through barriers—whether it’s reviving ghazals, experimenting with reggae, or swirling psychedelic rock, every aural movement has a home.
The first Pakistani woman to be nominated, Aftab was up against teen sensation Olivia Rodrigo, 18, who exploded onto the US charts in January with her viral track Drivers License. Rodrigo was also one of the most nominated musicians, with seven nominations in total, including album of the year for her debut Sour in 2021.
This year Arooj Aftab and Anoushka Shankar are nominated for “Udhero Na” for Best Global Music Performance alongside Burna Boy, Matt B & Eddy Kenzo, Rocky Dawuni Featuring Blvk H3ro Wouter Kellerman, and Zakes Bantwini & Nomcebo Zikode.
The singer shared her feelings in a post “Oh my God! ‘Udhero Na’ has been nominated for a Grammy. Congratulations to me and to Anoushka Shankar, Maeve Gilchrist, and Nadje Noordhuis. Four badass women come together, play a song that I wrote when I was 15 and it’s getting its flowers. So, I’m very emotional and I’m very glad and I’m really really, just, I don’t even know. I’m in this hall of a ship, we’re about to perform in about 20 minutes or so. I don’t know how I’m going to do that but this is great. So, thank you.”
36-year-old Arooj Aftab came to the United States in 2005 to study at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. She is now based in Brooklyn. She independently released her first album, Bird Under Water in 2015. She describes her sound as “neo-Sufi,” a blend of jazz and Sufi music sung to Urdu lyrics. Her second album Siren Island came out in 2018, continuing Aftab’s success.
The New York Times included the album in its list of 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, which is on Obama’s summer playlist, is taken from Aftab’s third album, Vulture Prince, which was released in April 2021. The album, dedicated to her late younger brother, Maher, has earned recognition for its passion and minimalism.
Music website Pitchfork described it as a “heartbreaking, exquisite document of the journey from grief to acceptance”.
Calling Mohabbat the album’s “centerpiece”, Aftab “transforms it into a slow-burn exploration of the pain of separation”, writes the magazine.
“Aftab sings, her voice afloat in grief so expansive that it seems to encompass the world, and whatever realms lie beyond.”
Speaking to NPR, Aftab called her latest album “very relevant” for the current times.