I didn’t know there was a ‘Pakistani U2,’ but according to my recent research into the region there is, and it’s rock and roll band Junoon. Although the group has been in hiatus since 2005, it’s still arguably one of the most popular and influential music acts to ever emerge from the region. Junoon debuted in Lahore, Pakistan in 1990 and shot to fame in the late ’90s, with its unique combination of Urdu language lyrics, Western and Eastern influenced rock melodies and ability to stay in the public eye despite working out of a country with a then practically non-existent contemporary music industry and tendency towards censorship of the arts.
And since 2005, Junoon’s charismatic lead guitarist Salman Ahmad has pursued a solo career in music, while at the same time becoming widely-recognized outside of the Asian music scene for an array of other pursuits.
Originally trained as a medical doctor before embarking on the rock & roll lifestyle, Ahmad, is currently a UN Goodwill Ambassador for HIV/AIDS and takes part in a range of social issues including promoting peace between Pakistan and Indian and raising money for Swat valley refugees. He’s also an outspoken critic of the Taliban and a documentary producer who has worked with the BBC on two projects thus far. Last month, he had some pretty strong opinions about music censorship and the Taliban when he spoke out in an interview on the topic:
‘.do you know why the Taliban hate music? Because they realize the power of Sufi music. It frees the soul, it frees the mind and there is no fear.So I believe that music-Sufi music-needs to be promoted in Pakistan. This concert that I did.was a concert about bringing souls together.’
And now, Ahmad can add ‘author’ to his list of titles. Soon to be released (but available for pre-order on Amazon), is his memoir, aptly titled, Rock & Roll Jihad: A Muslim Rock Star’s Revolution for Peace, which is already getting some pretty good feedback from people like celebrity reader Deepak Chopra, who calls Rock & Roll a ‘fascinating story of the evolution of a new kind of planetary citizen.’ Chopra also says he hopes readers will find themselves inspired enough by the book to take their own journeys of ‘mystery, wonder, enchantment, and most important of all, healing.’