Arooj Aftab – Night Reign


  1. Aey Nehin             05:45
  2. Na Gul 05:29
  3. Autumn Leaves 04:46
  4. Bolo Na             06:14
  5. Saaqi                         06:46
  6. Last Night Reprise 05:07
  7. Raat Ki Rani             06:15
  8. Whiskey             05:07
  9. Zameen             04:16



Arooj Aftab steht für Zoom-Interviews zur Verfügung

Der Zauber der Nacht, sei er positiv oder eher negativ besetzt, ist in der Musik von jeher ein Thema. Von den Nocturnes der Klassik über sentimentale, oft Cocktail-schwangere Jazz-Alben bis hin zu Max Richters Erfolgsprojekt „Sleep“.  Ein zeitloses Thema, dem DIE ZEIT gerade einen langen Artikel widmete und schrieb: „Die Nacht verwandelt den Menschen. Er feiert, als gäbe es kein Morgen, brütet düstere Gedanken aus, träumt verrücktes Zeug. Warum wir nachts anders denken, anders fühlen und anders funktionieren.“ Jetzt hat Arooj Aftab ihr neues Album der Nacht gewidmet.

“Night Reign”, der Titel des Albums, hätte auch gut zu einer Episode von “Game of Thrones” gepasst. Er wirkt auf den ersten Blick ein wenig düster, fast schon unheilschwanger. Doch sobald man in die stimmungsvolle Musik des Albums eintaucht, verfliegen solche Assoziationen, auch wenn oft eine leichte Melancholie mitzuschwingen scheint. Arooj Aftab versteht es Songs zu schreiben, die sich sanft in die Gehörgänge schmiegen und wahrer Balsam für Auto-Tune-geplagte Ohren sind. Ihre Lieder sind einzigartig, weil sie in der Tradition ihrer pakistanischen Musikerbes wurzeln, aber zugleich modern sind und auf subtile Weise grooven. Das macht sie, so meinte FLOOD Magazine kürzlich, zur derzeit “am wenigsten kategorisierbaren und kompromisslosesten Sängerin der Popmusik”. Mit “Night Reign” ist Arooj Aftab nun ihr betörendstes und stilistisch vielfältigstes Werk gelungen.

Tatkräftige Unterstützung erhielt sie bei der Aufnahme von so unterschiedlichen kreativen Partnern wie Vijay Iyer, Maeve Gilchrist, Moor Mother, Joel Ross, Cautious Clay, Kaki King, James Francies und Chocolate Genius, Inc.


“The night,” Arooj Aftab confesses, “is my biggest source of inspiration.” By trial or intuition she’s come to understand that these still moments of cover uniquely enable healing, desire, shelter, love—each essential elements of life and living, of intimate relation to one another. Perhaps because its darkness loosens inhibitions or invites new ways of being, enticing all to leave the day as honestly as they entered it, night welcomes play and searching. So too does Aftab’s voice, its reach and intensity complimenting the sun’s departure. Night Reign (Verve, 2024) is a perfumed, public garden of renewal, peaking the senses with each composition, each turn of phrase, each modulation. Stepping away from, though never forgetting, the grief and loss that animated her Grammy Award-winning album Vulture Prince (Verve/New Amsterdam, 2021), on which she faced what can too quickly and easily be taken away, Aftab appears here with original music and in yet another form: as bard of everyday possibility, quietude, and life-altering romance.

It’s only appropriate that she begins Night Reign with a treatise on arrival (“Aey Nehin”), which questions when a love will appear and what has kept them so long. In and from this moment of uneasy anticipation, Aftab is guide into the shade of somber dreams and lustful fantasies, defiant flowers and regal scribes. Some of her nights are rain-swept and clean, organically opening paths to clarity; others hold low visibility and request that listeners follow her voice in order to steady their footing and heart. In this world, who knows what we will next encounter or be asked to survive. Whatever it is, be thankful that the season of her singing is perennial. Charged by the improvisational and arranging might of Aftab and featured collaborator James Francies, a revolutionary reinterpretation of the standard “Autumn Leaves” opens into previously unknown corridors. She reinvents space and time; returning, after Vulture Prince, to her chase of the moon and catching it in “Last Night Reprise” (ft. Cautious Clay, Kaki King, and Maeve Gilchrist), and channeling the exquisite whispers shared between the centuries-separated Urdu poet Mah Laqa Bai Chanda and Indian warrior Chand Bibi (“Na Gul”). Together with another longtime collaborator, Vijay Iyer, Aftab slowly, deliberately walks listeners into a girl’s blossoming world of impending power in “Saaqi,” which resolves into an arrangement of Aftab’s layered harmonies. Listeners have not heard her like this before. Her breath punctuates each entrance, reminding them that her whole body is in these songs and convincing them that they all inhabit the same time and place. Take it in and hold it close.

Then surrender. “I think I’m ready to give into your beauty and let you fall in love with me,” is the twice repeated annotation that propels “Whiskey” into a perfect sky of vulnerability and longing, while “Zameen,” originally sung by the influential Begum Akhtar and featuring Marc Anthony Thompson, stretches for the universe in order to find peace here on earth. Aftab’s invitation to listeners to “bravely journey with this music,” traverses the heavens and heart while forcing all involved to also unflinchingly gaze into the darker recesses of the night, which appear on the album in myriad ways: heavier tones, more cavernous and clandestine locations, wider ruin. Along with Moor Mother and Joel Ross, Aftab transforms “Bolo Na” from a one-time love song into a crisis of faith grounded by an insistent, brooding bassline. A pulsating “Raat Ki Rani” accompanies listeners on an unforgettable ride deep into the dimly lit city—windows down and reservations suspended. Whether the few hours of the night-blooming jasmine’s apex will bring alarm or absolution cannot be predicted but Aftab inspires only trust in the journey.

The majesty of this intrepid work is her voice in ample conspiracy toward a jagged world made softer—promising, even—by tones and tales conceived with others. “I want to make music with and for everybody,” Aftab confidently declares. Night Reign is that chance and its triumph. Join and be made anew.

Shana L. Redmond, New York City / January 5, 2024




Some songs can only be heard at night–lunar lyrics for evening ears. It’s the songs of the night that stand us tall in the day, eyes filled with the work of stars. What voices will we take into our liminal slumber? What patterns and pieces will break open the night mind’s path?

Arooj Aftab answers these questions through, Night Reign. On this, her fifth studio album, the music holds visual context, a cinematic soundscape that brings life to the divinely ominous space we call the dark. Within the realm of darkness, Night Reign points to layers of depth that blend each song into a narrative of uplifting surrender.

Night Reign is an act of tender defiance. Protest and prayer. It’s not geographical affiliations or the details of her birth certificate that awakens Arooj’s listeners. It’s her refusal to adhere to the limitations of race, borders, and gender, though her work is intricately tied to these malleable ideas.

What stories about the kaleidoscope of voices on this album  can be told? “Na Gul” takes a poem written by the Indian 18th-century Urdu musician and courtesan from Hyderabad Mah Laqa Bai Chanda and stages a conversation between Mah Laqa Bai Chanda and Chand Bibi, the 16th-century queen of Ahmadnagar. Mah Laqa Bai Chanda’s poems have never been set to music, making them recuperative and speculative. Arooj is intentional in this honoring. The poem is not an exact translation. The deletion or rearrangement of verses blends tradition with her unruly imagination.

A re-interpretation of an old love song, the pleasantly haunting “Bolo Na” grapples with that oldest emotion.“Tell me if your love is real?” With the night come old feelings of the heart and the ambiguity of reciprocity.

“Bolo Na,”shows up in new form and speaks to the condition of systematic racism, gaslighting, inequality, capitalism, and the eradication of innocent people for personal gain. The acclaimed poet and musician Moor Mother adds texture to the song, questioning what we, the public, have been sold as “real.” She’s not pleading for anyone’s love. Instead, her verse draws attention to current terms of the human condition. In “Bolo Na,” we find a collaborative structure of musical worldbuilding. It grants us permission to be angry and over with the weightiness of the unknown. Here, poets hold the position of the mouthpieces and witnesses they are.

The biography between Arooj’s albums adds a string of elegant stories and new music histories–a collection that renders her music a kind of “hopeful disdain.” This biographical map includes the tools that brought us to Night Reign—Arooj as  film composer, vocalist, arranger, cultural worker, student of tradition, and keeper of heritage. And yet, this map and these tools are keenly resistant to all the above, making innovation and experimentation possible. She’s unafraid of doubt and uses it to find her way. It’s not about locating her sound in the predictable category of world music. It’s about the wealth that accompanies a willingness to change our understanding of what we call the world.

If Pauline Oliveros’s assertion that, “quantum listening is listening to more than one reality simultaneously,” then one must ask, what realities are bound up in this album’s hymns of the night? And how might these hymns that embrace whiskey, divine eroticism, and unexpected iterations of romance help us unlearn what we know about articulating spirituality and pleasure in sound? Night Reign is an invitation or a call to action. This album permits us to give into the night because, in the night, we come into form, into the messiness of our whole beings.

Lynnée Denise, Johannesburg, South Africa / 2024




  1. Juli 2024 – Karlsruhe – Zeltival
  2. Juli 2024 – Rudolstadt – Rudolstadt Festival
  3. Oktober 2024 – Berlin – Heimathafen
  4. Oktober 2024 – Hamburg – Mojo Club
  5. Oktober 2024 – Köln – Kulturkirche


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VÖ: 31.05.2024


  1. Oktober 2024 – Berlin – Heimathafen
  2. Oktober 2024 – Hamburg – Mojo Club
  3. Oktober 2024 – Heidelberg – Karlstorbahnhof
  4. Oktober 2024 – Köln – Kulturkirche

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