Arooj Aftab
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Arooj Aftab

New York City, New York, United States

New York City, New York, United States
Band World Acoustic


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"Arooj Aftab - A female singer/songwriter to watch"

Arooj Aftab - A female singer/songwriter to watch
By Chris Boylan
Fri, 10 Jun 2005, 17:17:00

Sometimes you stumble across something on the Web that is just too good not to share. Arooj Aftab is a twenty year old woman from Pakistan who taught herself how to play guitar instead of becoming a good little accountant like her parents wanted.

Because she was forbidden from going into a studio, she recorded her own demos on the computer and sent one to Berklee college of Music, who promptly offered her their first Steve Vai online music scholarship. So now Arooj can study music (long-distance... for now) at one of the most prestigious music schools in the world.

Her "sound" is a refreshing blend of traditional western singer-songwriter with clear middle-Eastern influences, maybe Tanita Tikaram meets Edie Brickell with a touch of Norah Jones? Nah, that's not exactly it, but it's on the right track. Her haunting version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" sends chills down my spine.

Check it out, along with two other covers and two originals at her web site. There are more songs here:

"Rendezvous with Arooj Aftab"

Arooj Aftab
Formally studying music at Berklee College, MA, Arooj is a talented artist with ambitious plans to bring formal music education to Pakistan - in addition to producing her own albums along the way. The inspiring twist to Arooj's story isn't just that she's a Pakistani woman who has decided to make music a career, but that she has lofty plans of educating more Pakistanis, in a formal way, about music. And after meeting all these young musicians, many of whom have already put Pakistan on the map in a positive way, we only have the highest hopes for our nation forming a cultural bridge with the rest of the world. There are very few people who would say it isn't necessary to have such a bridge, and it is exactly those people we need to get out of the mix by building a counter-force to their high nuisance, low-value opinion!

We wish Arooj the very best in her career and hope that she can be an inspiration for many others!

read full article here: -

"With her guitar, she crosses boundaries"

By Joan Anderman, Globe Staff | January 16, 2005

Two years ago Arooj Aftab was a middle-class Pakistani teenager living her life according to plan: She was working studiously under the watchful gaze of her parents to finish a two-year advanced-level degree in math and economics, and planning a sensible career in accounting.

At the same time, Aftab was pursuing an interest that was not at all part of the well-established cultural framework. She was teaching herself to play the guitar. As if this weren't radical enough, Aftab began writing her own songs. Forbidden by her father to enter a professional recording studio, Aftab did what any self-respecting Muslim girl determined to liberate herself from thousands of years of gender inequality would do: She learned how to use computer software to record and mix her own music.

"We're very conservative, culturally, and our society has assigned roles to women," says Aftab, now 19, on the phone from her home in the northern Pakistani city of Lahore. "Women sing, but they can't play guitar or compose on their own. You just don't see it. A girl with a guitar is a big deal here."

It's an even bigger deal now that Aftab has been named the winner of Berklee College of Music's first Steve Vai online scholarship, one of five online scholarships awarded this year. Aftab, who begins taking classes via computer this week, was the ideal candidate, according to Debbie Cavalier, dean of continuing education at Berklee, who helped shape the program's vision of providing a world-class education to gifted musicians regardless of their geographic location or economic status.

"Her life circumstances combined with her motivation were really inspiring," says Cavalier, who was on the committee that selected the scholarship winners from more than 150 applications. "Arooj's opportunities in Pakistan were so limited, and she's been able to work past all the hurdles in her way. She wants to develop her skills but she also wants to change the way female musicians are perceived in her country."

Happily, there were no limits on what Aftab could listen to as a voracious young music fan, and her nascent repertoire -- she's only written five songs -- are shaping up to be a heady fusion of East and West. "Walking," the song Aftab submitted to Berklee with her scholarship application, is a ballad. The tune's melancholy chord changes, strummed and picked on a beautifully resonant six-string, is firmly rooted in the singer-songwriter tradition. But Aftab's ethereal voice swirls and dives in the delicate, complicated motions of her country's long musical heritage, and the young musician merges sonic palettes with natural grace.

"It's easy to grow up here and blank out your own culture unless your parents are aware," Aftab says. "My mom is into a lot of Eastern classical instrumentals -- Zakir Hussain, India's greatest, and Ravi and Anoushka Shankar. My dad is really into Pearl Jam. I love Joe Satriani and Eric Johnson and Steve Vai. Oh my God, I died when I saw my name written next to his! I've been listening to lots of Jeff Buckley. I listen to the Corrs, in terms of girlie music."

After completing her advanced degree last May, Aftab decided she would take a year off to ponder her choices: follow the path of least resistance or follow her heart. The world of numbers, she says, was looking less attractive. Her dream of becoming a professional musician was deepening, but formal training at home wasn't an option.

Aftab had learned about an esteemed music school in Boston from Berklee alumnus Mekaal Hasan, an engineer/producer who returned to Lahore to open Digital Fidelity, one of Pakistan's premier recording studios. So she buffed up her best song (a snippet of "Walking" can be heard at on her home computer and sent it off with an impassioned essay about music, politics, gender, and the prospect of changing the world one tune at a time.

"We tend to think that in order to make a difference you have to make big, sweeping changes in the world, but in reality it's a domino affect," says Vai, the guitar virtuoso and Berklee alum who endowed Aftab's scholarship. "I remember reading her essay and listening to her song and thinking that a girl like this, with drive and ability and goals, she's going to inspire a lot of people. That's how you get evolution."

Aftab wanted to take all six of the courses the scholarship provides simultaneously but was persuaded to start with a more manageable load of three: Music Theory 101, Songwriting Melody, and Desktop Production. She's already applied for admission to Berklee in the fall as an undergraduate student in Songwriting and Production -- with the blessing of her parents, who now wholeheartedly support their daughter's musical aspirations. An explosion of local media coverage about her in Pakistan and an original song in rotation on Pakistani radio has, Aftab says, gone a long way toward legitimizing her goals.

"We're progressing really quickly now, and five years down the road it will be a different ballgame," Aftab predicts. "We were really closed up before; there was no freedom of expression. Now we can write about what's going on in the world. We have a Pakistani music and fashion channel on the television. This transition I've made from accountant to musician has been hard, and there are still friends and family who think it's not a good thing to do. People who take first steps get backlash. But I really am going to be that one."

Joan Anderman can be reached at - The Boston Globe

"Hey Sister, Go Sister, Soul Sister"

A prominent monthly magazine two years ago published a pull out poster with the who's who of the Pakistani music industry. One of the striking features of the poster was that amidst an odd 50 musicians, only one was female i.e. Hadiqa Kiyani. Perhaps the word to use here would not be striking, but rather alarming; 60 years down the road, and we have yet to boast of a proper group of female musicians?

To an outsider, that would be a warning sign, but to members of the music fraternity, it was nothing unusual. Stereotypes, social pressures and lack of music training schools have all contributed to the fact that there was no successor to Nazia Hasan, Runa Laila and even Hadiqa Kiyani.

But that was 2004, and things are a-changing. Thanks to the internet and the smattering of restaurants/hangouts where musicians can jam cropping up in metropolitans, there has been an outburst of talent from the XX chromosome-d population. Instep profiles the pick of this new crop...

By Huma Imtiaz

Arooj Aftab

Genre: Independent Pop Based on Contemporary/World Vocal Technique

Claim to Fame: Cover of Aamir Zaki's Mera Pyaar

The song 'Mera Pyaar' by Aamir Zaki has achieved somewhat of a legendary status in Pakistan, perhaps due to the fact that it is one of the few singles that Aamir ever released. While the pain in Zaki's voice is hard to match up to, a female singer from Lahore managed to ace it. Arooj has been recording cover songs for the past three years now, of which two notable examples are Pink Floyd's 'Comfortably Numb' and Jeff Buckley's 'Hallelujah'. The songs got heavy airplay on the local radio stations as well, hence helping Arooj build up her fan base. Arooj won an online music scholarship at Berklee College of Music, and is currently pursuing a four year degree there. Her only original number that was released on the internet is 'Walking', which did receive much praise, but then again, one song does not maketh an album. Arooj is yet to release a music video, but has been featured on the popular show On the Fringe, hence giving her some exposure to the general population. Currently she's studying vocal technique with classical singer Sara Zaman, and working on her debut album.

Verdict: While Arooj is talented, she still needs to go a long way, considering tthat she oesn't really have original material yet. It remains to be seen whether Arooj will make it big amongst the mainstream, especially since she sings in English, which greatly limits her audience range. However, after the success of Sajid and Zeeshan, she might have a good shot at a massing a loyal fan following in Pakistan. - The News Instep, Pakistan

"Where is our next pop diva?"

By Shaiba Rizwan

Pakistan’s music industry has churned out its fair share of icons, most of them men - from Alamgir and swinging Shaikhi to the contemporary Atif and Ali Zafar. The gals have made serious contributions, but they have been few and far between.

Ironically, the whole industry was started by none other than Nazia Hassan, Pakistan’s first diva. Disco Deewane took the subcontinent by storm in the eighties. Everyone remembers the sultry Zeenat Aman singing “Aap jaisa koyi” in Feroze Khan’s ‘Qurban’.

There are new girls going solo in our industry. Some couldn’t sing to save their lives. Take Rabi Peerzada, whose latest single contains lyrics such as “Bye bye guy”. I have too much faith in the intelligence of this generation to believe she will last long.

Perhaps a better prospect lies in the shape of 20-year-old Arooj Aftab from Lahore. Arooj taught herself how to play the guitar. She recorded her own demos on computer and sent one to the Berklee college of Music, which promptly offered her their first Steve Vai online music scholarship. Apart from Mekaal Hasan, she is perhaps the only Pakistani to study at one of the most prestigious music schools in the world.

Her sound is a refreshing blend of traditional Western singer-songwriter with Middle-Eastern influences, a kind of Norah Jones meets Nazia Hassan. Her first single, Walking, is so popular on radio that in a recent programme where listeners had to choose between two songs, Walking beat Pearl Jam’s Black. Her rendition of the Amir Zaki classic Mera Pyar has been loved by the urban youth. Here we have a girl with all the prerequisites to be the next Pakistani pop diva - the looks, she’s got the brains and, most importantly, she’s got the voice. Lets hope Arooj gets a recording deal soon.
- The Daily Times, Pakistan


Udhero Na
Man Kunto Maula
Aey Na Balam
Yaad Piya Ki Aey
Na Ja Balam Pardes
Bolo Na
Tera Junoon
Tere Bina



Originally from Lahore, Pakistan, Arooj moved to the U.S. in 2005 to study Music Production and Engineering at Berklee College of Music. Having completed her education and now based in New York, Arooj is working as a fulltime performing artist, music composer and sound editor.

Through exposure to diverse musical genres and incredibly talented artists in Boston and in New York City, Arooj is inspired to continuously develop her art and deepen her understanding of the possibilities of music. Layering subtle, intricate, dynamic vocals over acoustic instrumentation, Arooj skillfully re-imagines indigenous soul with signature ‘cool.’

Paying homage to classical Sufi legends such as
Abida Parveen and Reshma; neo-soul and jazz
icons such as Sade and Ella Fitzgerald; and
contemporary world musicians such as Marisa
Monte and Fat Freddy’s Drop, Arooj presents an
original, interactive sound embraced by young
and old, South Asian and beyond.

Prior to moving to the U.S. Arooj had already cultivated a tremendous fan base in Pakistan. For a generation of young
Pakistanis at a cultural crossroads, a rich musical
legacy collides with a globalized pop machine.
Fierce, dynamic, and steadfastly authentic, Arooj
makes herself heard amidst the surrounding discord.

In 2011, NPR listed Arooj as one of the top young 100 composers of
today, alongside names such as grammy award winning Esperanza Spalding
and Fusion Jazz piano virtuoso Vijay Iyer.

Arooj has shared stage and her music with world renowned artists such as Meshell Ndegeocello,
Esperanza Spalding, Abida Parveen, Arif Lohar, Toshi Reagon and Leni Stern to name a few.

She has performed her music at major venues such as Joe's Pub, Le Poisson Rouge and Carnegie Hall.

"Aftab’s ethereal voice swirls and dives in the delicate,
complicated motions of her country’s long musical heritage."
~ The Boston Globe

"Arooj Aftab, a Pakistani-American singer,
reworked the gentle, rippling phrases of the light-classical style called thumri over meditative guitar parts by Bhrigu Sahni that eased toward jazz and rock harmonies..."
~ The New York Times

"Arooj filled the space with her gentle yet surprisingly forceful vocal style."
~ MTV Desi