Talent@Lahore: Arooj Aftab
Talent@Lahore is a series in which we talk about the talent, the aptitude, and sheer brilliance of various personalities hailing from Lahore
In the 2nd installment of Talent@Lahore series, we will talk about a young musician who hasn’t released any album yet, has not appeared in any video, and has not won or been nominated for any major musical award. A lot of people have not heard of her, and many would take quite a while in appreciating her music, its sounds and melodies.
At first instance, Arooj Aftab’s profile looks fairly ordinary… perhaps because this is 2007, and there are so many of them… aspiring young musicians, male or female, carrying a guitar with lots of aspiration, talent, training, and some level of success too. We have been exposed to too many of these types; what with half a dozen 24 hour local music channels and a population overwhelmingly skewed towards teenage and young demographic profile. Granted there is immense musical talent in young, contemporary Pakistan, but then when there’s plenty of something, “something” has to be a bit above extraordinary to get noticed.
Is Arooj Aftab a bit above extraordinary? A one word answer would be “yes”. A detailed answer would be “off course, she is”. But first her brief introduction:
At 20 (not 20 something; plain 20) Arooj Aftab has acquired a vast array of fans… ranging from Pakistanis to Brits to Indians to Americans to what not. I presume right now she has more fans outside Pakistan than within… maybe because she has been studying music at Berklee College of Music… or maybe because her music is an invigorating fusion of conventional western tunes and rhythms with distinct eastern essence… or maybe because when you listen to a somber melody such as “udhero na”, or “walking”… in a silent winter evening, you get reminded of what “a bit above extraordinary” means.
The legend has it that a few years ago Arooj Aftab was all set to become an accountant, and was studying accordingly in Lahore….. then she changed her mind (perhaps on the grounds that a mathematician cannot but a poet can enclose infinity in a line…) and decided to pursue music; singing and even writing her own songs. In no time, she won the prestigious Steve Vai scholarship and got herself enrolled to Berklee College of Music (Boston – USA) to study music. A few ice ages later (remember, she is still 20) a niche of western media started to take notice of her as “someone to watch”… References to Norah Jones or Anoushka Shankar began taking rounds… and this is pretty much where we stand today.
Arooj’s claim to fame are just 5-6 songs, not enough for a whole album, but brilliant enough to be qualified for the Talent@Lahore list. Good enough in terms of the aura they create through simplistic yet profound melodies, coupled with her unique voice… talent, talent, everywhere… something different from most of the local musicians we have here around us these days. Some of her songs have featured in Pakistan, mainly on FM channels. She doesn’t have a video yet, and the only concerts she has done are small university gigs in the US. Most of the people know her songs through whatever is released on the internet.
Her Website and MySpace Page carry some of her songs and covers. Do visit and listen to them once in a while. There isn’t much more that I know or can say about her, except that Arooj is one fine musician, with a beautiful voice, remarkable talent, and hopefully a very fine future ahead. Something to look forward to!!!