Program: Arooj Aftab

Saturday, October 29, Berklee Performance Center

Arooj Aftab
Arooj Aftab was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to Pakistani parents. Her family returned to Pakistan in the 1990s, where Aftab found inspiration in Lahore's lush gardens, intricate architecture, and Urdu poetry. She emigrated to the United States to study at Berklee College of Music, completing a degree in music production and engineering. In 2011, she was named one of National Public Radio's 100 Composers Under 40, and she made the New York Times list of best 2012 concerts.

In 2021, her Vulture Prince album was met with critical acclaim from The Guardian, Time Magazine, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times. President Barack Obama included her album single "Mohabbat" on his 2021 Summer Playlist, and the video of her performance of the song "Mehram" with Asfar Hussain for Coke Studio Pakistan has garnered over 11 million views. In 2022 composer and singer Aftab joined Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan as the second Pakistani to be nominated for a Grammy, in the Best New Artist and Best Global Music Performance categories. She became the first Pakistani to win, taking home the 2021 award for Best Global Music Performance, for “Mohabbat.”

Aftab has since been invited to perform at major international music festivals, including Coachella, Glastonbury, Primavera Sound Barcelona, Roskilde Festival, and Montreal Jazz Festival. Earlier this year she marked the end of Ramadan by speaking alongside President Biden and the First Lady at the White House's Eid al-Fitr celebration. Aftab is signed to Universal Music Group and is working on the follow-up to Vulture Prince. She currently resides in New York City.  |  |

Maeve Gilchrist 
Described by one critic as “a phenomenal harp player who can make her instrument ring with unparalleled purity,” Maeve Gilchrist has taken the Celtic (lever) harp to new levels of performance and visibility. Born and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland, and currently based in Brooklyn, New York, Gilchrist’s innovative approach to her instrument stretches its harmonic limits and improvisational possibilities. She is as at home as a soloist with an internationally renowned orchestra as she is playing with a traditional Irish folk group or using electronic augmentation in a more contemporary, improvisatory setting.  

She tours internationally as a bandleader and composer and belongs to a number of innovative collaborations, including the prestigious Silkroad Ensemble, Arooj Aftab’s Vulture Prince ensemble, progressive folk group DuoDuo Quartet (featuring percussive dancer Nic Gareiss, cellist Natalie Haas, and Yann Falquet of Quebecois supergroup Genticorum), and a more electronics-based project with Nashville-based bassist Viktor Krauss. She has appeared at such major music events as Celtic Connections in Glasgow, Tanglewood Jazz Festival, the World Harp Congress in Amsterdam, and the historic opening of the Scottish Parliament. She has played with such luminaries as Yo-Yo Ma, Esperanza Spalding, Tony Trischka, Ambrose Akinmusire, Darol Anger, and Kathy Mattea. 

Gilchrist has released five albums to date, including her most recent 2020 recording, The Harpweaver, which was hailed by The Irish Times in its five-star review as “buoyant, sprightly and utterly beguiling... a snapshot of a musician at the top of her game.” Other albums include three recordings for the Adventure Music label, including her 2017 release with bassist Viktor Krauss, Vignette, and a self-released solo-album, The Ostinato Projecta beguiling exploration of the possibilities of her instrument. In 2018 Gilchrist was a featured soloist on the Dreamworks blockbuster movie soundtrack How to Tame Your Dragon: The Hidden World. 

Gilchrist was the first lever harpist to be employed as an instructor by her alma mater, Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she taught for five years before becoming a visiting artist in 2018. She has written several instructional books published by Hal Leonard Music and 80 Days Publishing. She is also an in-demand composer and arranger, with past commissions that include a groundbreaking concerto for lever harp and symphony orchestra cowritten with North Carolinabased composer Luke Benton, and several works for harp and string quartet, including her three-movement piece Pastures Red, premiered at the Edinburgh International Harp Festival in 2018. Gilchrist is the coartistic director of the new Rockport Celtic Festival: Exploring Celtic Roots and Branches and the comusic director of WGBH’s Christmas Celtic Sojourn. 

Darian Donovan Thomas 
Composer, multi-instrumentalist, and interdisciplinary artist Darian Donovan Thomas was born in San Antonio, Texas, and is currently based in Brooklyn, New York. He is interested in combining genres and mediums into a singular vocabulary that can express ideas about intersectionality (of medium and identity). Necessarily, he is interested in redacting all barriers to entry that have existed at the gates of any genre—this vocabulary of multiplicity is intersectional and therefore all-inclusive.  

Thomas has been commissioned by YOSA (Youth Orchestras of San Antonio), Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival (Banglewood), percussionists at Bard College Conservatory, and Sam Houston State University, among others. His music has been premiered by Sō Percussion, YOSA, Bang on a Can Banglewood Fellows, and SōSI Fellows. It has been performed in Iceland, Switzerland, Canada, and the United States. 

On any given night you can find Thomas performing anywhere from a salon house show to a grungy basement to a bar venue to a formal concert hall. As a means of expressing his interdisciplinary commitment, he is currently performing with eight bands and ensembles in New York as well as creating interdisciplinary work in different visual mediums. He has recently performed with Moses Sumney on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, performed in a Tiny Desk concert with critically acclaimed “dreambow” band Balún, toured internationally to Iceland with Apartment Sessions, and toured nationally and recorded with Katie Martucci’s band. He performs with MEDIAQUEER, Mordecai, String Orchestra of Brooklyn, and Prompt Collective, and he constantly performs his solo set in different venues around New York City. He has toured China, England, and Wales, and he has performed nationally with the Josh Abbott Band to audiences of thousands of people.  

Thomas received his Bachelor’s degree in music composition from University of the Incarnate Word (2016) in San Antonio, Texas. He has since been a New Amsterdam Records Composer Lab Fellow (2018), Sō Summer Institute (SōSI) Composer Fellow (2018), Infinite Palette composer-performer for Aeon Ritual at MASSMoCA (2019), and Bang on a Can Summer Institute (Banglewood) Composer Fellow (2019). He has studied with Julia Wolfe, David Lang, Michael Gordon, Sarah Kirkland Snider, William Brittelle, Andrea Mazzariello, Troy Peters, and others. 

With composition engagements scheduled through the coming year, he is currently composing for musicians in Australia, Germany, Russia, and Canada. He is also writing a piece for piano and orchestra that will be toured by Adam Tender and YOSA around the Northeast next summer, with a performance in Carnegie Hall. 

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