US-based Pakistani singer and composer Arooj Aftab became the first Pakistani woman to win a Grammy after she clinched the Best Global Music Performance award at the 2022 ceremony.
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With her single ‘Mohabbat’ from her 2021 album ‘Vulture Prince’, Aftab beat the likes of Angélique Kidjo, Burna Boy, Femi Kuti, Yo-Yo Ma, Wizkid and Tems for the gong. It was her first Grammy win and made her, according to the Recording Academy, the first Pakistani woman to win a Grammy.
Aftab was also nominated for the Best New Artist Award alongside FINNEAS, Baby Keem, Japanese Breakfast, The Kid LAROI and more. That category was eventually won by Olivia Rodrigo.
“I think I’m going to faint… I feel like this category has been so insane,” Aftab said onstage as she accepted the Best Global Music Performance award, per Pitchfork. She nodded to her fellow nominees, quipping that the category “should be called ‘yacht party category'” and thanked her collaborators for helping her with music she made about “everything that broke me and put me back together”.
Listen to Aftab’s Grammy-winning single ‘Mohabbat’ below.
A Berklee graduate with a degree in music production and engineering and jazz composition, Aftab began her musical career scoring films in New York City in 2010. She would eventually earn plaudits for her work in the documentary Armed With Faith, which won an Emmy Award in 2018.
Aftab was also pursuing a career as an artist while working, independently releasing her debut album ‘Bird Under Water’ in 2014, and signing with New Amsterdam Records for her 2018 follow-up, ‘Siren Islands’. She has described her music as ‘neo-Sufi’, and combines jazz with Sufi music and Urdu lyrics.
Aftab has also contributed music to Hindi films. In 2015, she sang the title track ‘Insaaf’ in the film Talvar by Meghna Gulzar. The track was composed by the film’s writer Vishal Bhardwaj, and written by Meghna’s father, the famed poet and lyricist Gulzar.