Arooj Aftab with Emily Wells
at The Music Hall at World Cafe Live
As we ease into our first shows back, we will not have food service in either The Lounge or The Music Hall at this time, but rest assured the bar will be open and the full drink menu will be available all night. As our kitchen warms up again, we look forward to expanding our culinary offerings in the coming weeks so you can enjoy the full WCL experience. Please note that If you had reservation in The Lounge, it is still valid.
$25 - $32 ADV // $28 - $35 DOS + fees
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Brooklyn, N.Y.—On April 23, 2021, New Amsterdam will release Vulture Prince, the third album from Brooklyn-based Pakistani composer Arooj Aftab.
Championed by NPR, who praised her composition as one of the “Greatest Songs By 21st Century Women+,” and The New York Times, who celebrated her work as one of the “Best Classical Music Tracks of 2018,” Aftab’s liminal sound floats between classical minimalism and new age, Sufi devotional poetry and electronic trance, jazz structures and states of pure being. On Vulture Prince, the composer’s remarkable voice, backed by a team of renowned musicians, transports listeners to worlds once known.
An Album Born Out of Grief
“Vulture Prince is about revisiting places I’ve called mine,” says Aftab, “places that don’t necessarily exist anymore. It's about people, friendships, relationships—some relationships that were unexpectedly short term, and how to deal with that.”
While writing Vulture Prince Aftab lost her younger brother, Maher, and she dedicates this album to his memory—a signal of emergence from loss and grief. “E quindi uscimmo a revider la stelle,” as Dante says at last, out of the inferno, “and thence we came forth to see again the stars.”
Acting as a second chapter to Aftab’s 2015 debut, Bird Under Water, Vulture Prince opens with a new composition of “Baghon Main,” a track from her first album. The lead song, along with the avian album titles, ties the two records together. “The Tower of Silence comes to mind,” says Aftab, “the Parsi funeral structure where their beloved deceased are left to be consumed by vultures, thus returning to the cycle of life. These sort of shapeshifting elements, the burning desire to embody and lead this mystic ancestral power, growth as a person and musician, all led to Vulture Prince.”
Of course, Aftab’s signature songwriting style also led to Vulture Prince. The composer has an uncanny ability to make music with layers upon layers of instrumentation, yet somehow it all feels very light, uncluttered, minimal on the ears. Aftab’s music then mirrors her voice, ethereal yet heavy—like a cloud crossed with a boulder.
Distinguished Musicians Help Realize Record
A graduate of Berklee College of Music, the composer channels artists from Terry Riley to Abida Parveen, and has played venues from Lincoln Center to (Le) Poisson Rouge to the Museum of Modern Art. In 2020, Aftab composed music for the Academy Award-shortlisted film Bittu and sang on Residente’s Latin Grammy Award-winning single “Antes Que El Mundo Se Acabe.” On Vulture Prince, she is backed by an all-star cast, including Badi Assad, Maeve Gilchrist, Jamey Haddad, Kenji Herbert, Shazhad Ismaily, Juliette Jones, Petros Klampanis, Nadje Noordhuis, Gyan Riley, and Darian Donovan Thomas.
So here is Vulture Prince—beautiful, powerful, dusky, and, above all, thoughtful. Included on the new album are singles, “Mohabbat” and “Last Night,” an old Rumi poem Aftab often sings live, but has never before released. Tucked subtly into Vulture Prince is “Saans Lo,” a song with words penned by the composer’s late friend Annie Ali Khan, who gently advises us to breathe—to move on. After seven minutes, “Saans Lo” fades into a washed-out drone before opening up into the colorful jazz-oriented closer, “Suroor”—a dynamic new world of possibilities.
“Quietly transfixing” composer / producer Emily Wells is known for her varied use of classical and modern instrumentation, “a master of blending the worlds of classical and electronics” (NPR) and “dramatic, meticulous and gothic songs” (New York Times). On stage Wells’ builds a “new instrument” out of acoustic and electronic drums, synth, violin, and her evocative performances leave audiences equal parts dancing and grieving. Wells’ latest work, This World is Too _____ For You released in March has been hailed by NPR as “breathtaking” “mind-blowing” and “visionary”. The ten song album, arranged for chamber ensemble by composer Michi Wiancko, was commissioned by Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music Series and Metropolis Ensemble who performs on the album along with drummer / composer Shayna Dunkelman (Du Yun, Xiu Xiu).