Junoon came into existence in the year 1990 after Guitarist-song writer Salman Ahmad quit Vital Signs to form his own band. Over the next decade, the band went ahead and became one of the biggest bands not just in Pakistan but also in South Asia. While Vital Signs with their pop songwriting style were the Beatles of Pakistan, Junoon with their hard rock sound was the Rolling Stones of Pakistan. As the years went by the band’s sound evolved as well which ultimately culminated in the formation of an entirely new genre of music known as Sufi-rock. The band went ahead and inspired a whole new generation of rock musicians in Pakistan. Unfortunately, the band members went their separate ways after their last album Deewar which was released in the year 2003. With this month marking the 25th anniversary of the band, let’s take a look at ten of the best tracks by Junoon.
Before turning towards spirituality and Sufism Junoon was one of the hardest rocking acts in Pakistan and no other track by the band rocked as hard as Talaash. The first song from the band’s second album clearly put on display the band’s hard rock roots. The song also served as the debut of the bass player Brian o Connell whose groovy bass lines became an integral part of the band’s sound. This was a time when Grunge music was dominating the charts in the U.S and the effect of grunge is clearly visible in the sound as well as in the song video. The song also consists of the immortal line “Zehni gulami se kash ho hum azad”.
Zamane ke Andaz
Junoon’s sixth album ‘Ishq’ is widely considered to be one of the weakest albums the band has ever released. This was a time when the tensions within the band were escalating and the band’s music was also becoming formulaic. However, none of these issues prevented Zamane ke Andaz from becoming an instant hit when it was released. The lyrics of the song were taken from an Allama Iqbal poem known as ‘Saqinama’. The song also ended up courting controversy due to the criticism from conservative organization regarding the use of Iqbal’s poems as song lyrics. None of these issues mattered to the younger generation of Junoon fans who loved the song. The line “Jawanoon ko peeron ka ustad kar” established Junoon as the leaders of the new generation who wanted a change of the old guard.
Junoon’s last album Deewar is memorable because it allowed the lead singer of the band Ali Azmat to showcase his talent as a song writer and boy did he deliver. Taara Jala eschews the bands sufi rock roots and is a slow mid-tempo rock song reminiscent of alternative rock from the nineties. The lyrics are inspirational and although Salman Ahmad’s guitar is catchy the song is dominated by Ali Azmat and his vocals. The music video perfectly manages to capture the mood of the song and is perfectly complimentary.
Salman Ahmad has cited Led-Zeppelin as one of his biggest influences and nowhere is the Zeppelin influence more apparent than in Ghoom. Everything from the guitar riffs to the drums reminds one of Zeppelin. In fact, there have been people who have compared the song to the Zeppelin classic “Kashmir” The lyrics are from an Amir Khusro poem and refer to the circle of life. The song appeared in the album Parvaaz which found the band at its absolute peak. In his autobiography Salman Ahmad referred to Ghoom as his personal favorite song.
Neend Aati Nahin
Neend aati nahin is a fan favorite song which was also the highlight of Junoon’s first album. The song was completely different from the sound that Junoon would later go on to adopt. In fact, the song would not have felt out of place on a vital signs record. The song is notable for the guitar tapping (made famous by Van Halen) solo by Salman Ahmad as well as the video for the song which was shot at Sea view. The song was also notable for its use of synthesizers as Brian O Connell had not yet made his debut as the bass player.
Most fans agree to the fact that Ali Azmat was the most rebellious member of the group. A man who truly led a Rockstar lifestyle. The Rockstar attitude is on full display in this song which was penned by the man himself. Sajna is a twisted love song where Azmat openly admits his infidelity and accepts the fact that he is a liar (and proud of it). The song served as a nice contrast to the other more spiritual songs which appeared on Parvaaz and showed Junoon’s versatility in different styles of rock music.
Mitti is bassist Brian o Connell’s favorite Junoon song. The song had one of Salman Ahmad’s best guitar riffs. Structure wise the song reminded one of the bands like Nirvana with quiet verses and explosive choruses. Salman Ahmad’s guitar solo pierces the soul and the table dholak elevates the song to a whole different level.
Aap aur Hum
Aap aur hum was an instrumental from Junoon’s second album talaash and serves as a showcase for Salman Ahmad sense of melody. Even though technically Salman Ahmad may not be the greatest guitar player but the man knows how to craft melody and the instrumental shows Ahmad’s strength as a songwriter. Musically the song makes one reminiscent the past and look towards a brighter future. The song video also shows the bands journey up until that point along with the hardships that they had to endure.
Sayonee is Junoon’s biggest hit. It was the song that established the band as the best music act not just in Pakistan but also in India. The band won numerous awards from all over Asia for this song and it can be said that the song played a key role in establishing Junoon on a global level. Musically the song had a bluesy vide to it with lyrics referring to soul mates. The song also marked a change in the bands look with the band ditching their leather jackets in favor of more spiritual attire. The song video became one of the most popular music videos in Pakistan media history.
Saeen was the first time that Junoon went in the direction of Sufi rock. Up until that point, the band was pretty much a hard rock outfit which was still in process of searching for their unique sound. That search culminated in Saeen which can be best described as an amalgamation of hard rock and qawwali style of music. The song features devotional lyrics with rock guitar resulting in the birth of Sufi rock. The song would set the template for Junoon’s sound in future and would further go on to influence acts like Mekaal Hassan band while also setting the template for music shows like Coke Studio.
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