Arooj Aftab: The First Pakistani Artist to Win a Grammy Award

Arooj Aftab: The First Pakistani Artist to Win a Grammy Award

Arooj Aftab is the first Pakistani artist to win a Grammy. She won the award in 2022 for Best Global Music Performance for her performance of “Mohabbat,” originally written by Hafeez Hoshiarpuri. Aftab was also nominated again for best Global Music Performance for the 2023 Grammys for her song “Udhero Na,” which also features Anoushka Shankar. The 66th Annual Grammy Awards will take place on February 5.

Aftab, 37, has seen a massive rise in popularity in recent years, although her career has spanned over a decade. She was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, grew up in Lahore, Pakistan, and came to the U.S. when she was 19 to study at Berklee College of Music. Aftab has said that she did not find the opportunity to study music in Lahore, so she chose to move to the U.S. to potentially pursue her chosen career. Aftab also advocates for music education in her home country of Pakistan, as she attributes her success to any support for her music career when she was younger, specifically the concert she performed at her school, writing on Instagram: “Even that small amount of support I got from the schools I attended in Lahore was enough for me to boldly dream a dream and make it my truth. Imagine what could be possible if we really actually supported the arts and made space for creative minds to thrive in more than just an extracurricular capacity.”

Her critically acclaimed album “Vulture Prince” came out in 2021, during a period of struggle for the world due to the pandemic, and also in her personal life due to the death of her younger brother. The album garnered praise from many high-profile artists and musicians, and even former President Barack Obama, who put “Mohabbat” on his summer 2021 playlist. 

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Aftab blends Sufi, folk, and jazz in her music. While she often draws lyrics from already-written poetry , she and her collaborators bend genres to compose the words into song, bringing something new to each piece. She experiments quite often with different styles of instrumentation; Aftab’s voice ebbs and flows without the backing of percussion as she sings ghazals that have been well-loved for years, as well as her own original lyrics in Urdu. 

Aftab was recently featured on Season 14 of Coke Studio Pakistan, the live music series, in the song “Mehram,” along with Asfar Hussain. She is also a part of a trio along with fellow musicians Vijay Iyer and Shazad Ismaily, called “Love in Exile.”

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