With a distinct blend of Western and Eastern musical styles, Junoon has ignited Asian audiences and sold over 20 million albums worldwide. "Junoon is not a name that will register with most American music fans," wrote Don Heckman in the Los Angeles Times. "But on the other side of the world, the Pakistani band is inspiring Beatles-like reactions from hordes of Indian and Pakistani devotees who describe themselves as Junoonis." Junoon has performed with Pearl Jam and Oasis, and was the first Asian band to appear at the annual Roskilde Festival in Denmark. The band has also raised awareness of tough political issues like AIDS, and won the Outstanding Achievements in Music and Peace Award from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). "The members of South Asia's hottest rock band have crossed innumerable hurdles together," wrote Juliette Terzieff in the San Francisco Chronicle, "bound by a love of music and a belief in promoting global peace."
Junoon's roots stretch back to Tappon, New York, in the 1970s. Salman Ahmad left Lahore, Pakistan, for New York with his family when he was eleven, and received his baptism in rock music when a friend offered him a ticket to a Led Zeppelin concert. Ahmad was so enthralled by the show that he saved $235 to buy his own electric guitar. He also befriended Brian O'Connell in Tappan, another young aspiring musician. Before the two friends could take their aspirations out of the basement and onto the stage, Ahmad's parents sent him back to Pakistan in 1980 to study medicine at King Edward's Medical College. "It's very difficult, when you are 17," Ahmad told Farah Stockman in the Boston Globe, "to convince your parents that this dream of being a rock star is valid." It would be ten years before the friends reunited.
Junoon formed in 1990 when Ahmed left the popular band Vital Signs. His vision, he told Khurram Saeed of the Westchester, New York, Journal News, was a combination of Eastern and Western styles that would "heal the wounds of our world through music." First, he recruited singer Ali Azmat from the Jupiters; two years later he contacted O'Connell and invited him to play on the band's self-titled debut. O'Connell told Stockman he realized the band's East/West approach had a chance for "making history. You're introducing a new art form to a not very willing audience." He quit his job as a social worker and traveled 10,000 miles to Karachi, Pakistan, where he reunited with his old friend. "I asked him to come for a couple weeks in 1992," Ahmad laughed to Saeed, "and he ended up staying ten years."
The band called itself Junoon, which means "passion" in Urdu. For the next several years, they recorded albums and struggled to establish their musical credentials. In 1996 Junoon began to reach a wider audience when one of their singles, "Jazbe-e-Junoon," became the signature song of the Cricket World Cup. Junoon also courted controversy with its video for "Accountability," which included footage of a polo pony eating in a posh restaurant. Many thought the image was an indictment of the corrupt Pakistani political elite, and especially of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. The government quickly banned the song and video from state television. "It put us in some really hot water," O'Connell recalled to Terzieff, "but at the same time, it made us very popular among people across the region, and suddenly we were political."
Junoon's fame grew rapidly. Within three months of the release of Azadi in 1997, the album had sold over half a million copies. Maliha Ahmed Khan in All Music Guide praised the album's "musical diversity that perhaps accounts for Junoon's eastern and western appeal. Full of zest, zeal, and enthusiasm, this album definitely rocks!" The following year Junoon traveled to Los Angeles where they appeared at the House of Blues.
The band courted controversy again in 1998 during a sold-out tour of India. The Indian government was testing nuclear devices, and Ahmad suggested that the Indian and Pakistani leaders should spend more on education and health and less on weapons. "It seemed like common sense to me," Ahmad told Terzieff, "but the politicians were incredibly angry." Junoon's music was banned from the Indian airwaves "We're a very political band," O'Connell told Tom Scanlon in the Seattle Times, "we encourage our fans to stand up for themselves."
Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Junoon, wrote Terzieff, "is battling to keep its message of tolerance alive." In the aftermath of the attacks, the band traveled to the United States for a series of shows at universities and high schools. Amad told Terzieff, "The message of September 11 was not to wake up and mistrust each other, but to reach out to one another—create bridges, not burn them." By the end of 2001 Junoon had once again been embraced by the Pakistani government, and were even joined on stage by President Pervez Musharraf. In October of that year the band played a peace concert at the United Nations (UN) and cable television channel VH1 aired a special about the group.
For the Record . . .
Members include Salman Ahmad , guitar; Ali Azmat , vocals; Brian O'Connell , bass.
Group formed in Pakistan, 1990; released Talaash, 1993, and Inquilaab, 1996; "Jazbe-e-Junoon" chosen as theme song for Cricket World Cup, 1996; "Account-ability" video banned in Pakistan, 1996; released Azadi, 1997; toured United States, 2001; released Andaz, 2001; released Parvaaz, 2002; issued "No More," first single in English, 2002; released Dewaar, 2003.
Awards: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Outstanding Achievements in Music and Peace Award, 1999.
Addresses: Record company— EMI Music Canada, 3109 American Dr., Mississauga, Ontario L4V 1B2, Canada, website: http://www.emimusic.ca. Website— Junoon Official Website: http://www.junoon.com.
Although Junoon continues to promote peace and harmony, the band also speaks out on contentious issues that most popular groups avoid. The band served as goodwill ambassadors for HIV/AIDS awareness for the UN and raised "issues that many in Pakistan would rather be kept quiet," noted the BBC News. "They are like the Beatles," one fan told Stockman. "They bring people together, against war, against the conflict between India and Pakistan." In 2002 Junoon opened a new chapter by releasing the antiterrorism song "No More" in English, yet another attempt by the group to spread their message to a wider audience. "You may disagree with their music, choice of lyrics or just dislike one or all of them," wrote Amber Rahim Shamsi in Herald Magazine, "but you simply can't ignore them. Isn't that what music is all about anyway?"
Inquilaab, EMI, 1996.
Azadi, EMI, 1997.
Andaz, EMI, 2001.
Parvaaz, EMI, 2002.
Dewaar, EMI, 2003.
Boston Globe, May 2, 2002, p. B1.
Herald (Pakistan), May 2003.
Journal News (Westchester, NY), June 30, 2001, p. B3.
Los Angeles Times, August 7, 1998, p. 6.
San Francisco Chronicle, February 10, 2003, p. A1.
Seattle Times, May 2, 2002, p. F3.
"Junoon," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com/ (September 10, 2003).
"Pakistan's Political Pop Stars," BBC News, http://www.newsvote.bbc.co.uk (September 10, 2003).
—Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.
"Junoon." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (January 22, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/junoon
"Junoon." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved January 22, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/junoon
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