It is another Grammy moment that sparks a much-needed social media conversation when the Recording Academy reveals the nomination of best new artist for the 64th Annual Grammy Awards on Tuesday. Arooj Aftab has become the first Pakistani artist to ever land a Grammy nomination. More so, the name is likely unrecognizable to most global music fans given her low-performing albums that flew below the radar. Unlike her, others nominated for the same award are buzz-worthy artists such as the likes of Olivia Rodrigo (who bags seven nominations in the big leagues with a nod for song and album of the year).
With three albums under her belt, 36-year old Arooj Aftab is an inherent part of both musical and cultural landscape of her home country, Pakistan, who ventures into Neo Sufi–a genre that lies somewhere at the intersection of the recitement of Sufi poetry, Pakistani Folk and a fusion of Jazz. In “Mohabbat,” the song she is nominated for, Aftab gets carried away in Sufi tranquility that stimulates an essence of serenity and spirituality. In its simplicity, the 7-plus-minute “Mohabbat” culminates into layers of emotions that burst into intense longing and grief as she sings in one key line, “This sadness equals all the sadness in the world.”
No prior insights into Neo Sufi is necessary to connect to this music; it is a soundscape of universal expressions; “Calmness, peace, patience, simplicity. And then sadness, longing, wandering, searching, openness, oneness,” Aftab tells Pitchfork during an interview earlier this year.
Does Arooj Aftab’s accomplishment mark a major milestone in Neo Sufi genre in the global mainstream? Tell us what you think in the comments.