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Arooj Aftab’s hidden talent takes flight in Pakistan | Coke Studio 14

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Sajjad Ahmed
Sajjad Ahmed
Photojournalist / Web Editor

“One of the most important things is that American audiences are now okay with listening to music that isn’t in English,” Arooj Aftab says of her historic Grammy nominations for Best New Artist and Best Global Music Performance.

“Nominated for two Grammy Awards in the ceremony’s upcoming edition, the album Vulture Prince is strong, raw, and right up there among some of the best albums we’ve heard. Coke Studio 14, Arooj Aftab’s debut on national TV.”

Arooj Aftab is the Recording Academy’s first female Pakistani awardee. She’s up for Best New Artist at the Grammys this year, alongside Olivia Rodrigo, Saweetie, Finneas, and others. “Mohabbat,” a song from Aftab’s third album, “Vulture Prince,” is also nominated for Best Global Music Performance. The album was also named one of KCRW’s “Best Albums of 2021.”

She primarily sings in Urdu, her native tongue, and is inspired by Sufi music, an old kind of Islamic poetry.

“It feels like the Academy is doing a good thing here, where it recognizes that this is also popular but through a different lens, and it deserves to be in the running for Best New Artist,” she tells Press Play. “And one of the most important things is that American audiences are now comfortable listening to music that isn’t in English since everyone else in the world has been doing it for a long time quite effortlessly, right?” It’s like a massive breakthrough.”

The song “Diya Hai,” which appears on Aftab’s latest album, is based on Mirza Ghalib’s 19th-century poetry about an unusual love triangle. “I’m saying if I give my heart to anyone, what can you really do about it if you give your heart away?” she explains.

“It’s not about anything in the end,” she continues. It’s just about the power of love and how it’s shared, and the comprehension of what occurred, like just communicating in a very simple and true way, which I really enjoy.”

While listeners may not comprehend the Urdu words, they can perceive the song’s sorrowful tone. According to Aftab, love is intrinsically unhappy.

“But there’s also a sweetness to it, like this melancholy yearning and want for another love, or for any relationship to have more love in it.” So I believe that’s what’s going on in the song.”

According to Aftab, her songs are about love and the realities of life. “[Life] may fill you with such loathing….” It’s so relentless in the way it offers you joy and misery, and it gives you things and takes things away, and you’re just in this washing machine cycle. But without that, everything is meaningless. So I’m trying to be as honest as possible by pouring my ideas and feelings into my music. I’ve been attempting to create really personal songs.”

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