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Junoon Groove Their Way Through Rock Rhythms

Chitra Parayath

The Organization of Pakistani Students at Boston University and the Pakistan Association of Greater Boston (PAGB) jointly organized a concert by South Asia's premier rock band, Junoon on Sunday, April 18.

Shahjehan Khan kicked the evening off with a solo guitar rendition of the Pakistani National. Four brightly attired perky Bhangra dancers from the Boston area took stage next performing to an excited crowd.

However, the crowd soon grew restless and one could hear cries of ‘Junoon’ from the more impatient among them. When Salman, Ali and John finally walked on stage, there were loud hoots of welcome from the pit. As Ali started the concert in his trademark style the Pakistani flag was held aloft and the music was almost drowned out by thunderous applause.
Salman’s hardcore guitar riffs and Ali’s rendering of Garaj Baras was the best opening diehard Junoonis could have wished for.

The crowd soon seemed to settle down and sat back to listen. Salman was having none of that though. “You guys in the middle of exams or what? Or are you all Freshman?” The implication that Froshes do not possess noise-making prowess was met with derision and from then on it was screaming and yelling and singing along with every number.

Onstage the energy of the band was incredible. Azmat’s frenzied and impassioned singing brought fans to their feet, screaming and hollering. The band quickly set about the task of fulfilling and exceeding the audience's expectations, ripping through all time favorites like Dosti and Sayyonee.

Ali and Salman sang all the Junoon faves, with Salman throwing in a U2 song for good measure. The fans’ energy spiked whenever Ali let loose a sheer jolt of restrained ferocity, self proclaimed Junoonis and non-Junoonis alike were swept up in musical fervor.

Salman is fond of extolling the virtues of peace, love, tolerance and equality. Tonight he kept his sermonizing in check and let the music do the talking. Currently one of the greatest rock acts in Asia Junoon truly rocked the house.

There were many moments of catharsis for the audience as they lost themselves in the musical storm, as the final frenetic notes were sung. This reviewer got everything she has come to expect of Junoon. Complex, lyrical and soulful music that has no parallel in the South Asian musical scene. One’s only grouse with the program was the venue. The Metcalf Hall is just not the place to hold a rock concert. The sound system was not adequate and the acoustics were simply awful!

Talking with lokvani the day after the concert Salman said “It’s great to play for students. Their energy is contagious and we feel charged. We enjoyed this concert!”

Junoon (Urdu for obsession or passion), a soft rock band from Pakistan has always connected with its audience directly, and without condescension. They sing about things that concern them socially and politically. Their willingness to criticize the establishment and powerful elite sets them apart as standard-bearers of a new subversive movement. Fusing pop, politics and mysticism, they gave artistic expression to the political concerns of a people. Willing to explore uncharted territories with their unique blend of musical styles, they have seen much success all over the world. Their albums have all been received well, with audiences seemingly enticed by their offering of traditional Sufi messages set to a Western style. The message is based on mystic harmony that is the cornerstone of Sufiism.

Junoon comprises of lead guitarist and composer Salman Ahmad, lead vocalist Ali Azmat, and Brian O'Connel who plays bass guitar. Junoon's first hit song, in the spring of 1996, was 'Jazb-e Junnoon' (The Spirit of Passion), Pakistan's Official song of the 1996 Cricket World Cup, 'Ehtesaab'(Accountability), which mocked politics and those in power, came in 1997. Their albums have been very popular all over the world, particularly in India: 'Junoon' (1991), 'Talaash'(1993), 'Inquilaab', 'Kashmakash'(1997), 'Azadi'(1997), 'Parvaaz'(1999), The Millennium Edition 1990-2000 (2000), Ishq (2001) and Daur-e-Junoon (2002). Junoon has played its message of peace and harmony at the United Nations and Salman Ahmed was recognized as a UN Ambassador of Peace.

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