New Yorker Momina Mustehsan takes South Asia by storm with ‘Afreen’

The 24-year-old’s song has become the highest viewed Coke Studio video.

Momina Mustehsan. Photo via Facebook
Momina Mustehsan. Photo via Facebook

Momina Mustehsan, a 24-year-old New Yorker of Pakistani origin, has taken South Asia and the world by storm following her rendition of a track alongside popular Qawwali singer Rahet Ali Khan.

Mustehsan’s song, Afreen — which was originally sung by the legendary Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan — was released by Coke Studio, a music TV series featuring music performances by various singers. She is the featured artist in the program’s ninth edition.

Coke Studio released Afreen on August 19, 2016. The video became an immediate success in just under four weeks with over 15 million views on YouTube as of September 17, 2016. In fact, it is currently Coke Studio’s highest viewed video.

With nearly 400,000 followers on Instagram and over 35,000 on Twitter, Mustehsan is also quickly becoming a social media sensation.

Daughter of Huma and Kazim Mustehsan, residents of Roslyn in Nassau County, on the North Shore of Long Island, New York, Momina is an engineer by profession.

The singer first tasted success with Pee Jaun, which she co-wrote and sang with singer Farhan Saeed. She also sang a song, Sajna, in an album released by the popular Pakistani band Junoon, celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Mustehsan also sang for the band Soch in the Bollywood film Ek Villain, which was released in 2014.

In an interview with BBC Urdu, the day Afreen was released, Mustehsan said she was nervous singing with Rahat Ali Khan, an enormously successful singer in Pakistan and India. He is the nephew of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan who composed and sang the original version of Afreen.

The New Yorker said Rahat Ali Khan encouraged her and helped her relax. “We were going on the floor to shoot the song, and that’s the first time I’m meeting Rahat as well,” she said. “I was so nervous. He was very encouraging. I didn’t expect it. Obviously he is amazing and he is a living legend.”

Singing isn’t her only dream, however, Mustehsan told the interview. Having done a minor in business at Stony Brook University in New York, she also has a dual degree in mathematics and engineering. She has plans on going to medical school as well. A bit of a brainiac, the singer said she was, “Always student of the year. Even in College I was in the Dean’s list.”

Momina’s mother, Huma, is a pediatrician and has a master’s in public health. Her dad, Kazim, was a brigadier general in the Pakistan Army.

Mustehsan has been playing the violin since she was in 2nd grade and the guitar since she was in the 4th grade. In another interview, she told the Pakistani paper The News that she first became interested in singing when she participated in the choir of her school talent show. “My teacher asked me if I had something to show and I said, I don’t know. And she said ‘I think you sing well’ and that’s when I sang for the first time. Then I realized that I had interest in music,” she said.

When asked about the future of her music career, she stated, “I don’t want to be a mainstream artist. I enjoy music. Enjoy making music. If I have the time, I love to sing a little bit.”

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