June 14, 2024

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Arooj Aftab – “The Night Era” (review) – ByteFM

Arooj Aftab – “The Night Era” (review) – ByteFM

Arooj Aftab – “Ahd Al-Nil” (Vital)

8.0

With 2021's album 'Vulture Prince', Arooj Aftab has taken a step from musical fringe to critics' favourite. Her song “Mohabbat” became the winner for the first time in the new Grammy category in 2022.Best international music performance“He triumphed over diverse African artists such as Burna Boy, Femi Kuti and Wizkid. Despite (or because of) the discussion of identity politics when awarding awards, these inclusive categories primarily frame the diversity of the main awards for the world's most important music awards and obscure the fact that” “World Music” is not the same either., but just the rest of the world.

Breaks in harmony

The reality is more complex than any Grammy Award fund. Arooj Aftab is part of New York's well-connected music scene and particularly draws from the globally minded creative collective always at the forefront in downtown New York. The extensive guest list on their new album 'Night Reign' is as diverse as it is brilliant and ranges from Moor Mother to Elvis Costello. The precisely arranged but versatile pieces are performed live in alternating groups of three or four with different instruments. Her closest colleagues are guitarist Gian Reilly (son of the great avant-garde composer Terry Reilly and frequent sideman of John Zorn), bassists Maeve Gilchrist and Shahzad Esmaili (Secret Chiefs 3, Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog, among others). They are all advocates of intercultural and cross-cultural awareness, and are gently guided by Aftab, who has a wealth of musical experience (after all, she studied music production and composition at Berklee College of Music in Boston).

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While the dark mood of Vulture Prince was due to the memory of Aftab's younger brother who died in 2018, Night Reign opens up the evil terrain of the night in entirely new aspects. What is also new is that Arooj Aftab often introduces breaks in the melodious sound design of the predecessor. “Night Reign” is a bit more modern, but also more energetic. Arooj Aftab allows herself to be more temperamental; They create moods that rebel against each other. She sings a lot in English and this also means that she exposes herself lyrically to a larger audience. With the help of eccentric jazz musician James Francis, Arooj Aftab flips the jazz standard “Autumn Leaves,” often sung as a melancholy song, from right to left (or from soft to hard) and lets the falling leaves crash against the window. Like hailstones. With “Last Night (Reprise),” the most arresting piece on Vulture Prince, the sweaty jazz piece “Last Night,” celebrates its intoxicating resurrection. In the heat of the night, unspeakable things seem to be happening: over a backbone of slapping bass, Aftab shoots himself into unparalleled opium bliss aided by guitar (Khaki King), flute (Cautious Clay), and harp (Maeve). Gilchrist). “Whiskey” seems to pick up on this thread and alludes to a weightier music (“Your head gets heavy and rests on my shoulder, 'cause you drink too much whiskey when you're with us”), which gradually loses itself in light-footed bliss.

A new stable star of avant-garde pop

These contrasting moods create tension in “Night Reign.” This also applies to the less complex pieces, which use guitar, harp and double bass to highlight Aftab's plaintive voice. Aftab continues to use old and new foreign compositions in Urdu, which she combines with Western folk traditions in moments of dreamy guitar fingerpicking (“Aey Nehin”) and also “Love Exile,” a collaboration with Vijay Iyer and Shahzad Esmaili from 2023, finds impressive resonance in The elegiac “sagti”, completely absorbed in the interplay of resonant sound bodies.

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Mark Anthony Thompson aka Chocolate Genius appears on the final song “Zameen”. Thompson was the initiator and president of Chocolate Genius, Inc. for neo-soul, whose output has received little attention despite features by Moby, Meshell Ndegeocello and Van Dyke Parks. Thompson has been quiet in recent years, and his invitation was also a good example of how Arooj Aftab is increasingly becoming a new star of avant-garde, jazz-influenced pop.

Release date: May 31, 2024
Tag: vitality

Image with text: Support Association

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