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Grammy-Winning Singer Arooj Aftab Plays Breathtaking Set in Met Museum’s Temple of Dendur: Concert Review

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Jem Aswad Senior Music Editor The Temple of Dendur in the Egyptian art wing of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the most unique and visually arresting places in a city filled with them, containing the 2,000-year-old Temple itself along with other sculptures and pieces of art, a large reflecting pool and a giant, 25-foot-tall floor-to-ceiling window that extends the entire length of the hall and overlooks Central Park.

It also may be the most unique and visually arresting music venue in the city. Over the years the room has hosted concerts by everyone from Interpol to the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, but it’s hard to think of a more fitting artist for such a setting than Pakistani singer Arooj Aftab, who won a Grammy earlier this year for her song “Mohabbat” from her latest album “Vulture Prince,” and was also nominated for Best New Artist.

This is less due to a cultural connection than the sound of her music: She is a stunning singer, with a voice that can swell or diminish with remarkable agility as she sings often-complex melodies following Eastern music’s tricky, fluid scales.

She is also accompanied by an unusual band of stellar musicians, and gives them ample room to showcase their virtuoso skills: Harpist Maeve Gilchrist, whose playing ranges from delicate to downright aggressive; guitarist Gyan Riley, who reels off astonishingly fast solos on an acoustic guitar but is equally adept at holding down a simple chord progression; bassist Shazad Ismaily, who doubled on synthesizer; and violinist Darian Donovan Thomas, whose soaring playing often didn’t sound like a violin — while all of the instrumentals were technically “organic,” all four had a battery of effects at their feet.

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