|Profession(s)||Singer, Music Composer|
|Physical Stats & More|
|Height (approx.)||in centimeters- 163 cm
in meters- 1.63 m
in feet & inches- 5’ 4”
|Eye Colour||Dark Brown|
|Debut||Studio Album: Bird Under Water (2014)
|Date of Birth||11 March 1985 (Monday)|
|Age (as of 2021)||37 Years|
|College/University||Berklee College of Music, Boston, Massachusetts, US|
|Educational Qualification||A degree in music production and engineering and jazz composition Hits daily double|
|Food Habit||Non-Vegetarian Arooj Aftab’s Instagram|
|Parents||Names Not Known
|Siblings||Brother(s)- Maher Aftab, Gauher Aftab (CEO at Foundation for Youth Employment Pakistan)
Note: Her younger brother, Maher Aftab, died when Arooj Aftab was working on her music album 'Vulture Prince.'
|Singer(s) (American)||Billie Eilish, Finneas, Billie Holiday, Mariah Carey|
|Singer(s) (Indian)||Zakir Hussain, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Begum Akhtar|
|Singer (Pakistani)||Abida Parveen|
|Song||“Family Ties” by American rappers Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar|
Some Lesser Known Facts About Arooj Aftab
- Arooj Aftab is a US-based Pakistani Sufi singer and music composer who is known for her music albums Bird Under Water (2014) and Vulture Prince (2021).
- Intrigued by music since childhood, Aftab started creating her melodies at the age of nine. In an interview, she talked about her childhood and said,
The earliest I can remember is when I was maybe 9 or 10, making up my own melodies and singing them around the house or for guests…I’ve been surrounded by a lot of music from a very young age, and I guess what’s interesting to me now is that I never thought it was unusual to be creating my own music all the while.”
- Her family returned to their hometown, Lahore, from Saudi Arabia when Aftab was ten.
- Growing up in Lahore, when her parents refused to enrol her in music classes, she taught herself to play the guitar. In an interview, while talking about her childhood, she said,
I taught myself how to play guitar, because my parents were worried that if I had lessons I’d mess up my studies – which is exactly what happened.”
- She first gained recognition in the late 1990s and early 2000s with her renditions of the songs “Hallelujah” and “Mera Pyaar,” which went viral on the internet, inaugurating the indie music scene in Pakistan. She publicised her music online in times when Pakistan lacked the infrastructure for independent music and Western online platforms were inaccessible. Her initiative of sharing songs via emails later encouraged numerous young artists to create and release their songs independently, i.e., without production labels.
- She started formal training in music via an online course at Berklee School of Music after securing a scholarship.
- Before leaving Pakistan, Aftab had accumulated a loyal fanbase in the country.
- At the age of 19, she relocated to the U.S. to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts.
- She moved to New York in 2010 and began her career in music by editing and scoring films while releasing her own music simultaneously.
- She earned the News & Documentary Emmy Award (2018) for her work as an additional editor in the film ‘Armed with Faith’ (2017).
- Later, the singer also worked for the American music channels MTV and Vice, where she supervised music, sound, and video departments.
- While working for a music channel, she began listening to Thumris (a vocal genre or style of Indian music) by the celebrated Indian singer Begum Akhtar, which sparked her interest in the Sufi music genre.
- Aftab’s work as a composer led her name to be included in “100 Composers Under 40,” a crowdsourced list released by the American radio stations NPR (National Public Radio) and WQXR-FM’s Q2 in 2011.
- She worked as music director for the 2013 film ‘Without Shepherds’ by Cary McClelland.
- She lent her voice for the album ‘The Julius Eastman Memory Depot’ in 2013 and Tale and Tone Records in 2017.
- Arooj Aftab’s released her debut album, Bird Under Water (2014), under her independent label. Critically acclaimed, Bird Under Water received four out of five stars in March 2015 by David Honigmann in the prestigious publication Financial Times.
- In July 2018, Bird Under Water’s song “Lullaby,” was included in the NPR’s list of “200 Greatest Songs By 21st Century Women,” ranked at number 150.
- In ‘Bird Under Water,’ she also interpreted “Man Kunto Maula,” a qawwali composed by the thirteenth-century Sufi polymath Hazrat Amir Khusro.
- She worked as a playback singer voicing the title songs “Insaaf” for the 2015 Bollywood film ‘Talvar’ and “Raske Bhare Tore Nain” for the 2016 Pakistani film ‘Dobara Phir Se.’
- In 2015, she clashed with the Pakistani music streaming service called Patari. Known as the largest music streaming service in Pakistan, Patari streamed songs and licensed music of various artists, including Aftab, online for free. She asserted that streaming mechanisms like Patari paid the royalties to the production labels instead of the artist for streaming songs. Therefore, the labels enjoyed better incomes than artists. Although various other artists joined hands with Aftab, the streaming service did not take off her music from the site.
- During the 2017 Ecstatic Music Festival in New York, she made acquaintance with Indian-American composer, pianist, and bandleader Vijay Iyer. Before performing on stage, the artists spontaneously created some music on the spot backstage, which marked the beginning of upcoming collaborations of the duo.
- Aftab was working at the mass media company Conde Nast in its video production department in 2017.
- Her second music album, ‘Siren Islands,’ was released on 12 June 2018, under the label New Amsterdam Records. Massive popularity of the album ‘Siren Islands’ led it to be included in NPR’s “Our Favorite Electronic & Dance Music of 2018” list. Additionally, the album’s chartbuster song “Island No. 2” was listed in the “25 Best Classical Music Tracks of 2018” list of The New York Times.
- She lent her voice to Residente’s 2020 song “Antes Que El Mundo Se Acabe,” which garnered a Latin Grammy Award in the category of best rap/hip-hop.
- She rose to prominence with her third studio album, ‘Vulture Prince,’ which was released on 23 April 2021, under the label New Amsterdam Records. The album’s chartbuster song “Mohabbat” was nominated for the Grammy Award (2022) for Best Global Music Performance.
- She was also nominated in the category Best New Artist, at the Grammy Awards (2022). With Grammy nominations under her belt, Aftab struck international stardom and rose to prominence in the New York music circuit.
- “Mohabbat” was also included in Barack Obama’s summer playlist favourites for 2021.
- While she was working on ‘Vulture Prince,’ she encountered the deaths of her close friend Annie Ali Khan and her younger brother, Maher. She dedicated the album to her brother Maher.
- To compile the lyrics for “Vulture Prince,” she turned to the works of renowned Sufi poets like Mirza Ghalib, Rumi, and Hafeez Hoshiarpuri.
- The singer has directed her friends in Pakistan to seek old bazaars for historical books from the Mughal empire that feature Urdu poetry, which she refers to for lyrics. In an interview, she talked about it and said,
I have friends in Pakistan who I ask them to keep an eye out for anything to do with the Mughal Empire. Music in the fifties, a lot of it ends up being in Urdu. I basically have minions. Friends who are journalists or academics, who go to libraries in Pakistan.”
- The singer also runs an eponymous website that features merchandise like Vulture Prince’s customised T-shirts and perfume by Dana El Masri.
- She signed with the American record label Verve Records in 2021.
- In the same year, she worked as a composer, sound designer, and implementer for the noir adventure indie video game ‘Backbone.’
- In an interview, she revealed that she quit drinking soda many years ago due to the plight suffered by the farmers of India and Pakistan due to multinational beverage company Coca Cola. In an interview, she said,
I think I said that I don’t drink soda! Coca Cola as a company has done some very shady and terrible things to farmers in India and Pakistan in the past. So I don’t support them at all.”
- She appeared in the Pakistani television programme ‘Coke Studio’ in 2022, where she voiced the song “Mehram,” along with Asfar Hussain.