Pakistani singer Arooj Aftab and British-Indian sitarist Anoushka Shankar may not be Beyonce-level household names, but they both have an impressive number of Grammy nominations. Aftab won best global music performance last year for “Mohabbat” — the first winner of that new award category — from her stunning album “Vulture Prince,” which also earned her a best new artist nod.
The two are nominated together for their song “Udhero Na,” from the deluxe version of the album. Below is a live video of another duet, their song “Aey Na Balam.”
Aftab says, “The stand-out track from my first album, ‘Aey Na Balam’ comes along as the encore song on the ‘Vulture Prince’ tour. It’s such a fun arrangement with so much dynamic energy. Having been playing it for almost eight years, we’re so easy with it that we can stretch it to some really beautiful heights in our performances. It stems from a centuries-old semi-classical thumri, so I believe Anoushka had some familiarity with it too. This was her first time playing it with us, with barely any rehearsal, so the performance was really exciting and active. We were all very keenly listening to each other, responding to each other and moving through the song.”
Variety wrote of Aftab’s special performance at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art earlier this fall, “She is a stunning singer, with a voice that can swell or diminish with remarkable agility as she sings often-complex melodies following Eastern music’s tricky, fluid scales. She is also accompanied by an unusual band of stellar musicians, and gives them ample room to showcase their virtuoso skills: Harpist Maeve Gilchrist, whose playing ranges from delicate to downright aggressive; guitarist Gyan Riley, who reels off astonishingly fast solos on an acoustic guitar but is equally adept at holding down a simple chord progression; bassist Shazad Ismaily, who doubled on synthesizer; and violinist Darian Donovan Thomas, whose soaring playing often didn’t sound like a violin — while all of the instrumentals were technically “organic,” all four had a battery of effects at their feet. Unlike most non-traditional music venues, the sound in the Temple was crystal-clear and beautifully mixed, projected by four obelisk-shaped speakers on the sides of the stage that were impressively on-theme for the Egyptian room.”
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