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

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.


  1. "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

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Nate Chinen