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Tessa Thompson Brings Night-Blooming Romance to Arooj Atfab’s ‘Raat Ki Rani’ Video

When actress Tessa Thompson met musician Arooj Aftab in London last summer, she felt like they were long-lost sisters. “I honestly can’t remember not listening to Arooj. Can’t be sure how she first came into my ears, but her music was instantly familiar and essential,” Thompson tells Rolling Stone. “Maybe I actually met her in a past life.”

It was only natural, then, that Aftab and Thompson team up for the former’s new video, “Raat Ki Rani,” the actress’s directorial debut and the musician’s first single off of her next album, Night Reign, due out on May 31st. “We were internet friends first,” Thompson says. “Watching her perform live really stunned me. She is a staple in my family too, my father [Marc Anthony Thompson] is a big fan and collaborator.”

The track, which marks Aftab’s first solo release since 2021’s Grammy-winning Vulture Prince, “is about a person whose allure, magnetism, and charisma floats through a beautiful evening garden party,” Aftab says. Named for night-blooming jasmine, the song wafts like that flower’s scent, and Thompson captures that melancholy sweetness in the black-and-white video, which features two women who could be falling in love — or starring in a Lynchian perfume commercial.

“The video is about the fantasies we have sometimes about people we encounter,” Thompson says. (It was produced by Kishori Rajan, who heads Thompson’s production company, Viva Maude.) “It’s about the way we come to life in dark spaces. It’s about how intoxicating something in bloom can be. I don’t want to say much more because I am curious what people see in it. But it is also an homage to some films I am deeply influenced by.”

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The record features Thompson’s father, of Chocolate Genius fame, as well as Cautious Clay on flute, Moor Mother, and long-time collaborators Petros Klampanis and Maeve Gilchrist. It follows Aftab’s collaborative album with Vijay Iyer and Shahzad Ismaily, 2023’s Grammy-nominated, jazz-adjacent Love in Exile.

“She is a singular artist and human,” Thompson says of her long-lost sister. “She inspires me in the way anyone does when they are entirely authentic and unafraid of their own personhood.”

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