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Brooklyn-based Pakistani singer Arooj Aftab achieved a historic feat this Sunday that will be remembered for times to come. The artist won her first Grammy for her song Mohabbat in the Best Global Performance category, making her the first Pakistani ever to win the prestigious trophy.

Clad in deep purple and black at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards, Arooj was also up for Best New Artist.

“I am beyond thrilled,” the artist told journalists backstage at the pre-gala ceremony, at which the vast majority of awards are handed out. “It feels great. I’ve been very nervous all day. And we’re off to a good start.”

After receiving the award, she said, “I think I’m gonna faint. Wow, thank you so much. I feel like this category in itself has been so insane like Burna Boy, Wizkid, Femi Kuti, Angélique Kidjo… this should be called yacht party category. I made [this record] about everything that broke me and put me back together. Thank you for listening to it and making it yours.”

Here is a glimpse of her winning speech:

“It is just so incredible. It is a proud moment for me and the music industry as well to have this type of limitless unapologetic inclusion. I think, all the nominees in the best new artist category are the 10 strong of us. It is just so beautiful, feels like a great day for music,” Arooj told Variety, right after the event.

Her journey

Arooj moved to the US in 2005 to study music at the Berklee College of Music. She released her first album Bird Under Water in 2014. The 37-year-old has been steadily gaining global attention for her work that fuses ancient Sufi traditions with inflections of folk, jazz, and minimalism.

Born to Pakistani parents in Saudi Arabia, Arooj spent her teenage years in Lahore before relocating to Boston to study musical production and engineering at the prestigious Berklee School of Music.

Her first big breakthrough was when her work for the documentary Armed With Faith won an Emmy Award in 2019.

She released her third studio album Vulture Prince to critical acclaim and gained even more attention after former US President Barack Obama included the track Mohabbat on his 2021 summer favourites list. The song is based on famous poetry by Hafeez Hoshiarpuri.

The album is based on themes of relationships, lost moments, and nostalgia. It was hailed as a ‘heartbreaking, exquisite document of the journey from grief to acceptance,’ by Pitchfork, an American digital music publication. Besides the album was also ranked sixth on Rolling Stone’s Best Music of 2021 list.

Read: Pakistani singer Arooj Aftab lights up Times Square

Arooj has performed at a number of major New York venues including Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art, also opening for Mitski at The Brooklyn Steel in 2018. Speaking to AFP in the days leading up to the Grammys, Arooj praised her fellow artists nominated for Best New Artist, a crop that includes Olivia Rodrigo along with rappers Saweetie and The Kid Laroi. “We’re all so cool — the group itself is kind of like a win,” she had said.

Earlier in March 2022, she was featured on Times Square Billboard as Spotify’s Ambassador for EQUAL Pakistan. As per Spotify’s statement, the popular streaming service’s initiative, EQUAL, aims to celebrate women creators by giving them a platform to share their content with the world. Arooj also sang Mehram alongside Asfar Hussain in Coke Studio Season 14.

Reactions on the historic win

Pakistani celebs are overwhelmed with emotions following Arooj’s win at the Grammys. Many took to social media to send their love, wishes and prayers.


Arooj Aftab


Listen to the winning song here:




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