Fossilized white men: Arooj Aftab calls out US magazine for racist review of her album

NEW YORK: Grammy wining vocalist Arooj Aftab has called out American Magazine Downbeat and music critic John McDonough for publishing a racist review of her album Love in Exile 

The album was released worldwide in March 2023 featuring Aftab’s collaboration with American pianist and jazz composer Vijay Iyer and musician Shahzad Ismaily.

The internationally acclaimed Pakistani singer garnered widespread praise for  her unique fusion of Urdu poetry with jazz elements. Music magazine PitchFork lauded the album for its emotional depth interweaved with the repetition of couplets.

Meanwhile a review in the jazz and blues magazine DownBeat took a contrasting perspective, in which editor and music critic John McDonough described the album as featuring “Urdu chants” that led to a “tedious monotony,” raising doubts about music as a universal language.

McDonough’s review sparked disappointment from Aftab, who took to social media to accuse the writer and the magazine of racism and Islamophobia. She criticized the publication to publish racist views by “fossilized white men.”

The Mohabbat singer expressed her frustration online, condemning the reduction of her album and the contributions of South Asian artists to mere “meditation, yoga, chanting and Bollywood”.

She highlighted the systemic bias faced by artists from marginalized communities, asserting that McDonough’s remarks reflected a belief that brown musicians should not exist in contemporary music. She also accused the editor of stereotyping South Asians as limited to “meditation, yoga, chanting, and Bollywood.”

Vijay Iyer, who collaborated with Aftab and shares an Indian heritage, extended his support to the singer calling out the state of jazz journalism.

Meanwhile, Downbeat clarified their stance regarding the review.

Aftab addressed the editor to showcase her disappointment through her tweets.

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