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Junoon Aur Ishq

Chitra Parayath

Musical Anarchy
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.

Ishq Album Review

Ishq by Junoon will be appreciated by most Junoonis for its eclectic mix of tracks. Rock songs, with the traditional guitar riffs but fused with Tablas and Dholaks are Junoon staples and feature in this album as well.

If their last album hinted at a strain of earnestness creeping into their work, this one dispels the notion somewhat. Case in point is the song 'Dharti Ke Khuda', easily the best track on the album. A rant against the social and political climate of the times, conveying real anger and frustration with the system it has racing choruses and guitar riffs.

Ali Azmat's vocals are hearty and John Louis Pinto's drumming is exhilarating. 'Sheeshe ka Ghar' has been described by the band as an idealistic, Utopian song, whereas the Latin flavored 'Sheena' is a fun number with the guitar and tabla sounding off well together. 'Chaen', Chal Kuriye', 'Ishq,' are all fun to listen to and Ashiq Ali's tablas and Brian's bass guitar make 'Chal Kuriye', an ode to a rebellious girl, a favorite with this reviewer.

Shamein and Jaaney Tu have good vocal hooks (Ali's falsettos) and some ingenious lyrics by Sabir Zafar. Ishq also has great lyrics (Paani mein aag)and powerful vocals. Sheeshe ka ghar andKaise gaaoon main, a love ballad are passable and nothing to write home about.

The three other tracks on the album are equally interesting: "Saqi Nama", "Jugalbandi"and "Ocean of Love". Jugalbandi (a live instrumental performance recorded at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark) is an innovative piece with Jay Dittamo on the drums, and Ashiq on tablas.

Junoon visits Boston!! See them perform at the Kresge Auditorium on Sunday April 28.

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