Momina Mustehsan is a Stony Brook alumna whose musical talent has been recognized from the United States to Pakistan.
She began singing covers of her favorite songs and posting them on music platforms preceding the dawn of Soundcloud. Unlike most Soundcloud artists, however, her success happened almost overnight. She was discovered in 2011 by the famous Pakistani band Junoon, who set up a collaboration with her.
Mustehsan was born in Pakistan near the Afghanistan border but was raised on Long Island. From an early age, she was immersed in her Pakistani culture, especially through the music. She enrolled at Stony Brook University as a mechanical engineering and applied math and statistics double major and would sing during her free time in her dorm room.
Her road to prominence began in the humble space that all resident students have grown accustomed to.
“I bought a recording device and made sure my suitemates were quiet, and then I would just record,” Mustehsan said.
Rising through the ranks by collaborating with other well-known Pakistani bands and singers such as Farhan Saeed, Mustehsan established herself in the Pakistani music industry. But she got her claim to fame by performing a rendition of “Afreen Afreen” (which translates to “Praise to her Creator!”) by the renowned Qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Qawwali is a type of Islamic devotional music performed by the Sufi sect of Islam.
In August 2016, she performed “Afreen Afreen” on the Pakistani television series “Coke Studio,” which showcases live performances by artists of diverse musical styles ranging from modern pop to traditional Indian and Pakistani classical music. Mustehsan’s performance was one of the most viewed episodes of Coke Studio’s nine seasons, with over 2.5 million views in a single day. Today, the episode has over 17 million views and the singer continues to rise in popularity.
Having graduated from Stony Brook last year, Mustehsan now dedicates her time to promoting social change and women’s rights. She is traveling around the world and working with organizations such as UN Women, which works toward achieving gender equality and empowering women.
Momina says her specific interest is in advancing the role of women in her Pakistani culture. Frequent visits to Pakistan gave her a keen understanding of how women are treated and the types of role models they look up to.
“There are not a lot of young women who have influence in Pakistan, so I feel like I am in a unique position to push forward progress,” Mustehsan said. “We can only progress if we educate ourselves.”
While Mustehsan’s career keeps her busy, she said she balances the business of her daily life by enjoying simple moments such as spending time with her family or reading a book.
She chooses to remain record label-free at the moment and wishes to use her education and background in engineering to further sculpt her future.
When asked about what’s next for her, she said, “I am getting married in January, so it is hard to say what will happen after that. I don’t think I can look further than that for now.”