Grammys 2022: Pakistani singer Arooj Aftab earns a nomination

Nov 24, 2021: ‘Mohabbat’, the song that former US President Barack Obama listed as one of his summer playlist favorites for 2021, has resulted in a Grammy nomination for Pakistani actor-musician Arooj Aftab.

The singer received two nominations for the 64th Grammy Awards on Wednesday morning, the biggest nomination for Best New Artist, which landed her in a crowded arena with nine other successful artists, including The Kid LAROI, Arlo Parks and Olivia Rodrigo.

Her track “Mohabbat” has also been nominated in the Best Global Music Performance category.

Arooj Aftab has become the first Pakistani to be nominated for the Best New Artist, which is described as a “category that recognises an artist whose release achieved a breakthrough into the public consciousness and notably impacted the musical landscape”.

Fans took to social media shortly after the announcement to celebrate her nomination, with former singer and music industry veteran Fifi Haroon leading the congratulations on Twitter. “WOW! Pakistani singer #AroojAftab gets nominated for a #Grammy in the New Artist Category for an Urdu song! In July 2021 Arooj made it to President Obama’s Summer playlist for her cover of Mohabat (karney waley kam na honge) an original by Mehdi Hasan,” posted Haroon.

The Saudi-born singer, who currently lists Brooklyn, New York as her home, is known for her soothing music with minimalist, jazz and neo-Sufi overtones.

While Aftab commands a large following with her Pakistani and Asian fanbase, her breakthrough can be credited to Obama for placing her on the map and giving her global visibility.

Arooj was born in Saudi Arabia and her family moved back to Lahore when she was 11 years old. In a profile published on ArtForum in April 2021, Arooj shared that she listened to Begum Akhtar, Mariah Carey and Billie Holiday while growing up and taught herself how to play guitar. It was in Pakistan that Arooj started promoting her music on the internet.

Her covers of Amir Zaki’s Mera Pyar and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah helped her establish herself as one of the first “indie” artists in Pakistan.

Arooj’s latest studio album Vulture Prince was released in May through New Amsterdam Records. The album has seven tracks among which Mohabbat and Last Night received acclaim from critics and audiences alike.

She has collaborated with multi-instrumentalist Darian Donovan Thomas for Baghon Mein, and Brazilian singer Badi Assad for Diya Hai.

Incidentally, Obama has also been nominated for a Grammy this year, his third overall, for his audiobook ‘A Promised Land’, which has made it to the Best Spoken Word Album shortlist. He is up against Dave Chappelle, LeVar Burton, Don Cheadle and J. Ivy.

Fan favourite Taylor Swift earned just one nomination for album of the year, for her ‘evermore’. Kanye West’s ‘Donda’ is also up for the big prize, along with three hip-hop awards.

Meanwhile, K-pop supergroup BTS may have won big at the recent American Music Awards but the septet got one nomination, for pop duo/group, for ‘Butter’.

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