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Tuesday March 05, 2024

Beyond borders: Arooj Aftab picks up a Grammy nomination for ‘Udhero Na’ ft. Anoushka Shankar

November 17, 2022

“The love that never falters

The love that pays the price

The love that makes undaunted

The final sacrifice.”

– By Sir Cecil Spring-Rice

KARACHI: It’s nearly 4 am in Karachi, Pakistan and nearly midnight in Basel, Switzerland where Arooj Aftab is about to perform in less than 30 minutes.

Somewhere between getting ready to go onstage to perform, Aftab has just learnt that she has been nominated at the Grammy Awards for the second year running.

The exhaustive nature of a tour slipped away and was replaced by joy as she shared the news on social media.

The category in which she is nominated, Best Global Music Performance, is not entirely new to her.

In 2022, Arooj Aftab was nominated at the Grammy Awards in the categories of Best New Artist and Best Global Music Performance where she won in the latter category for the beautiful and haunting ‘Mohabbat’.

Getting this nomination for this particular song means a great deal to Arooj Aftab because as she had told Instep Today earlier, ‘Udhero Na’ is a song that has withstood the test of time. She first wrote it as a heartbroken teenager but where other songs lose their splendor as an artist develops their musical narrative, ‘Udhero Na’ managed to stand alone.

“Oh, my God,” was her first reaction followed by congratulating those involved with the track including Anoushka Shankar – who is not new to picking up Grammy nods.

In addition to congratulating, Arooj – in a video – expressed how emotional she was feeling.

She was about to go onstage and the emotional current running through her also made her wonder how she’d perform. But not one to walk away or act like a diva, she did go onstage and before going her simple and powerful “Thank you” encapsulated what she truly felt.

‘Udhero Na’ is a special song because the artists involved have origin stories from India and Pakistan. Instead of playing up animosity, this was a song where Arooj Aftab and Anoushka Shankar had “inter-woven [their] histories, ancestry, backgrounds, friendship and musicianship into the song.”

‘Udhero Na’ doesn’t pander in a conscious fashion to any audience. The Brooklyn-based artist, whose music is sparse and delicate, beautiful and haunting, is one we can truly call our own. She joined forces with the virtuoso Anoushka Shankar and created a song that allowed us to eradicate just a moment of longing the people of the two countries feel for each other beyond the arena of power where a certain narrative is fed to people in the name of patriotism.

‘Udhero Na’ by Arooj Aftab with Anoushka Shankar is therefore important and as it goes to the Grammy Awards, it is a reminder that good, kind things are possible instead of just the volatility and violent and hatefulness we have become so accustomed to. If any song can manage to erase the longing even for a few minutes, it must be applauded, revered and hopefully win - at the upcoming Grammy Awards in 2023.

– Photo credit: Ana Viotti