Why does Arooj Aftab expect not to be otherized anymore by the industry?
by Ana Walia | Wed, 08 Dec 2021 17:32:35 GMT
Image Source: Los Angeles Times

The nominations for the 2022 Grammys were announced on November 23, 2021, and Arooj Aftab was nominated under the category of Best New Artist. Arooj Aftab is a Saudi Arabia/Pakistan-raised composer, producer, and vocalist whose latest album, "Vulture Prince," is highly deserved.

The vocalist is also nominated in the category for Best Global Music Performance for her critically acclaimed track "Mohabbat" from the album. In her latest interview with the L.A. Times, Arooj Aftab shared why she believes that she should not be otherized anymore. Until now, the singer has released three albums: "Bird Under Water," "Siren Island," and now "Vulture Prince".

Arooj mentioned that she has been part of the industry for a long time and even though she respects the Recording Academy’s decision because "they’ve actually changed history", she does not need to be alienated as an artist anymore. The singer said, "Maybe they defaulted into it, and they don’t realize what they’ve done [but] the world music voters, the classical voters, the jazz voters, and all of these factions — so many of them aren’t plugged into mainstream pop."

In her interview, the musician shared that she was 19-years-old when she moved to the United States to attend Berkley College of Music and has lived in the United States more than she has lived in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia. She added, "The American dream is playing itself out on its own, right? I wanted "Vulture Prince" to transcend boundaries. I wanted to combine all of my experiences and have them translated into the music. " After graduation, Arooj moved to New York, where she has been a part of the city’s jazz and new music scenes for the last 15 years.

In 2017, Arooj Aftab met pianist, composer, and MacArthur Fellowship grant recipient Vijay Iyer at the Ecstatic Music Festival in New York. They have been collaborating ever since the two spontaneously created something, and have recorded an album together as well. Vijay Iyer said, "It’s a real breakthrough in a lot of ways, and not just for her, but for America. It feels like a new step, culturally, that someone like her, who sings in Urdu and is channelling these really deep lineages and histories so authentically and honestly, could be at this American pop culture pinnacle. "

Speaking of Arooj’s critically acclaimed third album, "Vulture Prince", the audience can find seven songs ranging from five to eight minutes that feature both acoustic and electronic elements. During the making of the album, Arooj’s close friend and younger brother passed away, about which she said, "When I was dedicating the album to my younger brother, I didn’t realize that I’d have to talk about him over and over again. I had to take a step back and calm down a bit and revert to the healing energy power of the music, which is something that I was running away from as I was trying to make it more acceptable. "

Arooj Aftab believes that Grammys have actually changed history. Image Source: Town Square

The loss in her life affected her and her music so much that she decided to make the album with a lighter feel, and she said that when she removed an instrument (drums) that needed tempo all the time, the album flew more and touched everyone’s heart and soul. On decoding her album, Arooj shared that for the lyrics, the singer turned to minimalist Asian poets, including Mirza Ghalib, Rumi, and Hafeez Hoshiarpuri. She added, "There’s incredible poetry written by my ancestors dating so far back. I can focus on melody and on how I can get musicians to transcend their instruments and interlock with each other".

The ‘Vulture’, Arooj explains, "has been exalted as this bird that doesn’t hunt. It eats things that are already dead, which has this dark and nasty connotation—but also this very beautiful circle-of-life connotation that is an integral part of folklore for so many cultures. We have our darkness, but we also contribute to the betterment of the world. "

Arooj said that she is fond of pop music, especially by Billie Eilish and Finneas. Image Source: Forbes

The final ceremony for the 64th Grammy Awards will be on January 31st, 2021, and Arooj Aftab is looking forward to attending the ceremony. Sharing about her peers, Arooj said that she is fond of pop music, especially by Billie Eilish and Finneas. The singer also touched on the dark side of stardom when she said that she read something that Doja Cat said. She explained, "I was reading something about Doja Cat saying, "I’m burned out, and I’m being forced to do things, but I just want to sit on my couch and play video games." I was like, "Oh, that sounds terrible." That’s starting to happen to me, too, but not on that level yet. "

Arooj Aftab identifies as queer and said while talking to Pitchfork, "I was a little different from the rest. Being queer was a thing—everybody else was just so straight by default. But I was popular. I was very much in the hang, just making jokes and being a little sensitive. "

Congratulations on the nomination! 

Information Source: LA Times