A Brooklyn-based global music star will be one of the headliners at this year’s Vancouver International Jazz Festival.
Arooj Aftab—who once showed up on former U.S. president Barack Obama’s playlist—will perform with celebrated pianist Vijay Iyer and multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily.
Their new project, Love in Exile, will be at the Vancouver Playhouse on June 26.
Aftab snared the 2022 Grammy Award for best global performance for her song “Mohabbat”—marking a first for a musician of Pakistani heritage. She was also nominated that year as best new artist.
Aftab was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to parents from Pakistan.
Meanwhile, Ismaily is an American-born son of Pakistani immigrants. He has mastered the electric bass, drums, percussion, guitar, flute, accordion, and synthesizers.
In the past, Ismaily has collaborated with Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson, Yoko Ono, and Tom Waits, among many others. He’s also studied musical traditions in many countries, including Turkey, India, and Chile.
Ismaily is a self-taught musician with a master’s degree in biochemistry from Arizona State University.
The Atlantic Centre for the Arts posted this artist talk by Shahzad Ismaily.
Iyer received a MacArthur Fellowship
Iyer, a legendary jazz and classical composer, is also a scholar. The son of Indian immigrants to the United States, he has math and physics degrees from Yale University and went on to obtain a master’s degree in physics at the University of California, Berkeley.
His 1998 PhD dissertation was entitled “Microstructures of Feel, Macrostructures of Sound: Embodied Cognition in West African and African-American Musics”.
In 2011, Iyer received a Grammy nomination for best instrumental jazz album for Historicity. Two years later, he received a MacArthur Fellowship. In addition, he’s been voted jazz artist of the year four times in DownBeat magazine polls of international critics.
Aftab, Iyer, and Ismaily played their first show together in 2018 in New York City. At that time, they were called the Arooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer, and Shahzad Ismaily Trio.
Below, you can see an eight-minute segment from their 2019 concert at Joe’s Pub Public Theater in New York City.
Watch Arooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer, and Shahzad Ismaily perform in 2019.
Aftab performed in Vancouver before
Last summer, Aftab came to Vancouver on her own to play the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts on UBC’s Point Grey campus. This was part of the Indian Summer Festival.
That occurred a couple of months after Aftab had joined President Joe Biden and his wife Jill at the White House for a celebration of Eid al-Fitr.
It’s worth noting that TD is no longer sponsoring the Vancouver International Jazz Festival. As a result, Coastal Jazz & Blues Society had to downsize the event somewhat. It means fewer high-profile shows featuring artists from outside of Canada.
In addition to rising costs due to inflation, festival organizers face a relatively low Canadian dollar in comparison to the U.S. greenback. That ups the cost of importing American talent.
“This year will look a little different for the Vancouver International Jazz Festival,” Coastal Jazz & Blues Society executive director Nina Horvath conceded in a news release. “But what stays the same is our festival programming.”
The event runs from June 23 to July 2 at various venues around the city. Tickets are available at www.coastaljazz.ca on February 16 at 10:00 a.m.