She // Her // Hers
[ID: A Pakistani woman poses against a black background, leaning over a table with crossed arms. She wears a black and gray blazer with gold rings on her fingers and looks to the left of the camera.]
Portrait photo by Blythe Thomas.
New York, NY
2023 USA Fellow
This award was generously supported by the Mellon Foundation.
Arooj Aftab was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to Pakistani parents. Aftab’s family returned to Pakistan in the ’90s, where she found inspiration in Lahore’s lush gardens, intricate architecture, and Urdu poetry. She emigrated to the United States to study at Berklee College of Music, completing a degree in Music Production and Engineering. In 2011, she was named one of National Public Radio’s Top 100 Young Composers and made The New York Times list of best 2012 concerts. Her 2021 album, Vulture Prince, was met with critical acclaim from The Guardian, Time Magazine, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, the Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times. President Barack Obama included the album’s single “Mohabbat” on his official Summer Playlist, and her performance of the song “Mehram” for Coke Studio Pakistan has garnered over 11 million views. In 2022, she joined Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan as the second Pakistani to be nominated for a Grammy with her nominations in the Best New Artist and Best Global Music Performance categories. She became the first Pakistani to win, taking home the 2021 award for Best Global Music Performance. She has since been invited to perform at major international music festivals including Coachella, Glastonbury, Primavera Sound Barcelona, Roskilde Festival, and Montreal Jazz Festival. She is signed to Universal Music Group and is working on the followup to Vulture Prince. Aftab currently resides in New York City.