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Arooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer, Shahzad Ismaily: Tiny Desk Concert

Arooj Aftab performs at the Tiny Desk at NPR in Washington, DC on April 14, 2023.
Catie Dull
Arooj Aftab performs at the Tiny Desk at NPR in Washington, DC on April 14, 2023.

Around the midpoint of Arooj Aftab, pianist Vijay Iyer and multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily's Tiny Desk concert as the trio Love in Exile, Aftab steeply intensifies her vocal outflow, generating a spirit of lift within the music. It's the cresting of a wave, in a sense, but no more inherently vital than the accumulating swell period, or the ensuing glide. For Aftab and her equal partners in the project, every musical offering arises from a slow-motion flutter of collective actions, which renders each passing moment unique.

That's a fanciful way of saying what the music invites you to understand at gut level: this group makes music strictly for the moment, creating a shared language in real time. As its members explained this spring, before the release of their entrancing self-titled debut, this highwire creative model is rooted in acute listening and mutual trust. Whatever the gesture — when Iyer plays a somber, strobing figure on Fender Rhodes piano, for example, or Ismaily wobbles a line on electric bass — it can be seen as an invitation. This performance, a marvel of concision by Love in Exile standards, extends a similar courtesy to any receptive ear.


  • "Eyes Of The Endless"

  • Vijay Iyer: Fender Rhodes, piano
  • Arooj Aftab: vocals 
  • Shahzad Ismaily: bass, Moog

  • Producer: Bob Boilen 
  • Director/Editor: Maia Stern
  • Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin
  • Series Producer: Bobby Carter
  • Videographers: Maia Stern, Kara Frame, Sofia Seidel
  • Audio Assistant: Hannah Gluvna
  • Production Assistant: Ashley Pointer
  • Tiny Desk Team: Suraya Mohamed, Joshua Bryant, Marissa Lorusso, Hazel Cills, Ashley Pointer, Pilar Galván, Jill Britton
  • VP, Visuals and Music: Keith Jenkins
  • Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann
  • Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Nate Chinen

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