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The music of Arooj Aftab floats within several liminal spaces you might not have imagined—between New Age and classical minimalism, between Sufi devotional poetry and electronic trance, between singer-songwriter structure and states of pure being. Raised in Lahore, Pakistan, to a family that loved music and indulged her budding interests, Aftab had a natural aptitude, absorbing the lessons of imported pop, south asian classical music, and urdu poetry set to sound. In Pakistan, she recorded a humble and beautiful acoustic cover of Hallelujah that became a viral treasure. After moving to New England to attend the Berklee College of Music, though, her audio universe suddenly opened up, revealing abstract jazz and modern composition that would allow her to stretch her sense of song and magnificent voice into totally immersive states of being.
On her first two records, Aftab created singular, seamless worlds: For 2015’s Bird Under Water, she stretched her melismatic voice over gentle acoustic guitar, fluttering winds, and astral electronics that shimmer like gauze. And on 2018’s Siren Islands, that voice glows like the rising sun, radiating within digital frameworks that recall the colorful keyboard patterns of Terry Riley’s all-night flights or Grouper’s slowly circulating hazes.
On her latest record, Vulture Prince, the composer’s remarkable voice, backed by a team of renowned musicians, transports listeners to worlds once known. “Vulture Prince is about revisiting places I’ve called mine,” says Aftab, “places that don’t necessarily exist anymore. It’s about people, friendships, relationships—some relationships that were unexpectedly short term, and how to deal with that.” While writing Vulture Prince Aftab lost her younger brother, Maher, and she dedicates this album to his memory—a signal of emergence from loss and grief. “E quindi uscimmo a revider la stelle,” as Dante says at last, out of the inferno, “and thence we came forth to see again the stars.
‘The Pakistan-born, Brooklyn-based composer draws from jazz, Hindustani classical, and folk to create a heartbreaking, exquisite document of the journey from grief to acceptance.’ Pitchfork
.’..Aftab transforms suffering into rhapsodic beauty with her exquisite, elastic phrasing, translating pain into acceptance as each song unfolds.’ Bandcamp Daily