Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Pop Group Junoon does act of mercy

Pop Group Junoon does act of mercy

Syed Ali Mujtaba

CHENNAI: Junoon is all about passion, madness, and mindless commitment to music, says Salman Ahmed, the lead guitarist of the Sufi pop band from Pakistan that is currently in Chennai.

He says, 'people including my friends and relatives called us mad when my friend, Ali Azmat, with an MBA degree, and I with an MBBS degree thought of starting a rock band. So we decided to call it Junoon, and that's how the journey began since 1990.'

The entire Junoon band; Ali Azmat, lead vocalist, Salman Ahmed and Vikar, guitarists, Mickaal Hassan, bass guitarist, Allen Smith, drummer, and Mohammed Azam, tabla player, were present at the 'The Park' hotel for a charity dinner to raise funds for HIV/AIDS awareness.

This was the second visit of the band to Chennai, the first time being in 1999, during a whirlwind tour of India after their song 'Syaonee' caught the imagination of the entire country.

The dinner was hosted by the organization 'Acts of Mercy', the social wing of the Unwind Centre, the most happening place on the English pop scene in Chennai.

Salman says he and Ali Azmat gave themselves a year to satisfy their passion for music and never thought about earning money or fame. All that has come their way through Junoon was a bonus from the Almighty, he says.

The group broke away from the monotony of occupying the stage and came and sat with the audience.

'We do'nt want to make it another Pakistan - India encounter, that divides people on the two sides of the border, some one from the group was heard saying.

They band members sat amidst the guests and shared their experiences with them, mingling freely, giving autographs and obliging the cameras to click and flash.

Salman let his heart speak, saying that he was enjoying life as a musician to the fullest and never regretted for not practising medicine.

He says, 'you can earn and make comfortable yourself, but you can never get the satisfaction like I do, of being invited to a far- off place like Chennai, with such a gathering assembled to listen to me. I can trade all my comforts for this satisfaction.'

Talking about various Indian cities, he feels that Chennai is a spiritual city while Delhi and Patiala are the extension of Pakistani Punjab. To him, Mumbai is as gripping as Karachi, while Bangalore and Pune are also vibrant cities.

Junoon lead vocalist Ali Azmat, explaining about the pop culture scene in Pakistan, says things have changed for better since the last 15 years and there are 10 quality bands in his country.

Since cinema, he says, is not all that developed in Pakistan, the pop-stars have acquired icon status there. It also has to do with the large youth population as 50 per cent of the total country's population being under the age of 25. He says youth culture is the same everywhere and pop stars are instant celebrities. Pop stars popularity could judge by the fact that even the President comes and enjoys their concerts, he said.

Talking about Junoon being banned on Pakistan's PTV for the band members sporting long hairs and making unusual fashion statement, Azmat says 'it was just a pretext of the then government to justify their decision'.

He says that through their music they were delivering social messages about corruption and inefficient governance and the political establishment then did not like that. The ban on them was lifted after their album 'Parwaz' was released, he said.

About future projects, Salman Ahmed says he shot a seven- minute music video on Pakistan-India friendship, with Naseeruddin Shah, Subha Mugdal and Nandita Das. Some part of the video was shot in Patiala, his ancestral place, he said.

John Christian, director of the Unwind Centre, who organised the charity dinner said the Pakistani band Junnon is roped in to create awareness about AIDS with the slogan ' Fight Aids with facts and not fear'.

'It is no publicity gimmick but yet another serious attempt to build peace and friendship between India and Pakistan,' he said.

The funds raised would go to support 'Hope', an organization working for the women and children affected with HIV/AIDS, John said.

The pop group was in chennai in july 2004 and this write-up appeared in News Today.



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