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Junoon set to make a comeback

Junoon set to make a comeback

KARACHI: Junoon are back, and it took — as a video that went viral on Wednesday suggested — a biscuit company to convince the three talented musicians to regroup.

But first, a quick recap of the band’s history. They invented — though some might argue against it — the genre ‘Sufi rock’. The band called Junoon, which roughly translates as ‘consuming passion’, was formed in the early 1990s. The prime mover in putting things together was the lead guitarist Salman Ahmed (who had become known nationally for his earlier association with the iconic Vital Signs) and Ali Azmat, the firebrand vocalist who had performed in the Lahore-based rock band Jupiters and im­p­ress­ed audiophiles with his ability to belt out a tune without many pitching issues.

The genre that they chose to compose music in was to do with the spiritually-inclined material, such as the kalaam of Sufi poet Bulleh Shah, with heavy guitar riffs. Hence, the then freshly contrived category of Sufi rock. Also, there was the ‘foreign’ element to the Junooni scheme of things –– the American bassist, Brian O’Connell.

Hit rock band of 90s to reunite on screen after 13 years

In its 14-year-long existence, Junoon recorded more than half a dozen albums, including the musically-rich Talaash (1993) and the lyrically-strong Azadi (1997). Then the inevitable happened: four or five years into the 21st century, cracks began to appear in the band and eventually the three went their separate ways. Salman Ahmed and O’Connell flew out to the US while Ali Azmat focused on his solo career and even sang for Bollywood films. Mean­while, Ahmed was seen and heard expressing his political opinions on TV channels and openly supporting Imran Khan, chief of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).

It is still not clear as to what exactly caused Junoon to disband in the first place. A common conjecture was that the guitarist and the vocalist didn’t see eye-to-eye on important matters –– musical or otherwise. If that was the case, then they must be commended for standing shoulder to shoulder for so many years –– both are pretty opinionated individuals.

A few months back, Azmat had denied reports of a possible reunion of the band. Similarly on Wednesday after the video was uploaded online, he did not reveal much while speaking to Dawn. When asked to comment on the reunion, he referred to the [biscuit] company’s announcement. “Obviously, if they have released something [then it’s happening]…” He did not elaborate on the nature of the regrouping, though. “Yeh to wohi bata saktey hain” [only they can tell you about it]. When further probed about whether the band was to stay together, the singer replied: “Right now, the project is on. Let’s see.”

However, the video in which the three band members are seen sitting alongside head of marketing of English Biscuits Manufac­turers (EBM) shows a different story. In it, the three musicians can be seen singing the famous song ‘Yaro yehi dosti hai’ and talking about the project titled ‘Sooper Hai Pakistan Ka Junoon’. It is clear that it’s the biscuit company that has got them together, again.

All of this hints at the fact that there is a possibility that the three men are there for a single venture. Or, they’re back for good. Whatever the case maybe, the fact remains that music in Pakistan is going through a resurgent wave of sorts, with the revived Pepsi Battle of the Bands and the seasoned Coke Studio doing their bit to promote and showcase Pakistani talent.

Junoon’s reemergence on the music map will only add to the already ‘happening’ soundscape. However, and mind you, critics and audiophiles will keep an eye on how relevant Junoon can make themselves sound and look among the millennials.

Published in Dawn, August 9th, 2018

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