Fajjr Khan: Embracing the Music Industry as a Hijabi Musician

“My dream is to use my talent for performing to entertain and uplift people in a positive way. I want to sing and act and dance to make audiences celebrate all of the crazy emotions we feel inside.”
- Fajjr Khan

“Being a hijabi musician in the music industry feels equally adventurous and frustrating. It is so exciting for me to be doing something that really hadn’t been done in America” Fajjr Khan, the lead singer of “fajjr+ali”, a pop duo band in New York City, started her career in the music industry with her best friend Ali in 2014. The pair became an artist duo when they realized that there was little to no representation of Asian, Arab, and Muslim artists in mainstream music.

“At the time, you could not find a hijabi doing anything in the music/entertainment business. Now, I am filled with joy seeing hijabi models, directors, screenwriters, and actresses finally bringing our stories into the mix- it feels like a revolution”, says Fajjr. Growing up, singing and performing came as a natural talent to Fajjr, as opportunities to sing and perform would always come her way. In college, she studied theater and music. While in college, Fajjr and Ali sang together as a hobby. Though she studied theater, living a life as an actress did not sound very appealing. Nonetheless, she took the opportunity to work with Ali at the same agency as an actress. She went on to say, “While Ali was in New York acting, his agent at the time had asked him if he knew any actresses that wore a headscarf or hijab. It was a wild coincidence because at this time I didn’t know a single other actress that did, and Ali just happened to know me! He referred me and I eventually signed with the same agency.” Soon after realizing the scarcity of roles for actresses who wore hijabs, their agent transferred the pair into the music industry, where they started their group “fajjr+ali”. Find fajjr+ali’s new single, “I’m Fine”, which was released on December the 3rd, on all streaming channels.

When asked about the challenges as a Muslim woman in the entertainment industry, she went on to say: “My daily challenge is telling myself that I can be Fajjr, a Muslim-American girl, without having to make compromises. I don’t have to talk about the complexities of my religion, how hard it is to wear hijab, or my South-Asian culture just because those are the visibly obvious traits about me.” For Fajjr, she’s observed that the biggest challenge of Muslim women in the entertainment industry is being forced into particular stories and narratives where minorities only exist as certain characters or tropes. She went on to say, “Bringing diversity to the arts doesn’t mean that the new perspectives and stories that we bring just have to be about things specific to our race or culture. It is also about the universals: love, sadness, fear, insecurities. We simply bring a different perspective to the same feelings everyone else has.” As a Muslim American, a few experiences have made her feel like an outsider, including growing up in a family that was not culturally Pakistani. This made it difficult for her to connect with her friends who had South-Asian, Arab, and Muslim backgrounds. She describes being in the music industry as the same, however, the beauty it’s brought is the connection fajjr+ali have with their audience and fans, as many of them have never been part of a group growing up. As an artist, Fajjr shared that keeping everything at arm's length is how she stays true to herself. She went on to say, “I like to be at an arm's length from everything because as an artist it makes observation and reflection easier. As soon as you get too involved in a community or group it forms this echo-chamber where you start to align your ideals with everyone else and it's hard to see your own faults or what’s really going on”. “Life is divine chaos, just embrace it!” - Fajjr Khan

Our Favorite Questions

What is your secret recipe for a successful life? “That I just keep going. Sometimes when I wake up I feel like I am back to square one mentally and emotionally but I will just tell myself “okay let’s start again”. Nothing makes sense to me most of the time, but I try to remind myself to trust God and his plan. Every day and every action adds up so just keep going. And be as kind and empathetic as possible, every single day. Life is divine chaos, just embrace it.”

Who is your main inspiration? “My mother, Rubina, is the person who inspires and pushes me to keep going every day, because being a professional musician can be terribly difficult. She is also whatever the opposite of an echo chamber is. She will always tell me what I am doing wrong and keep me in line, and give me love and support for my many emotional ups and downs.”

What were your dreams as a child? And did you achieve some of them? “I wanted to be a housewife, haha! And the short answer is no, I did not achieve it. But I am a hijabi pop singer… God has a great sense of humor.”

Where’s home to you? “Where my family is. Where I can hear my mom laughing or my nieces and nephew screaming and my step-father beatboxing terribly, or where me and my siblings can make fun of each other!”

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