Junoon rocks for peace in new album   DATE
Feb 17, 2003

WASHINGTON: Pakistani American rock band Junoon is doing its bit to promote world peace by singing about the futility of conflicts in Iraq, Jammu and Kashmir and the Middle East in their new album.

The lyrics about conflicts in Junoon's yet-to-be-named album show the trio's growing political activism. For the first time in their 10 years of being, Junoon (passion in Urdu), is performing songs in English, in a bid to reach a global audience.

Junoon is battling to keep its message of tolerance alive in an increasingly polarised world, following the September 11 attacks. The group includes one US-born Christian and two Pakistani Muslims, who also sing in Urdu and Punjabi.

"I am constantly forced to defend my belief in the average American against the growing perception that the principles for which America stands, are being compromised while defending Pakistan against the image of fundamentalism," lead guitarist and lyricist Salman Ahmad is quoted as having told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Junoon traces its beginnings to a friendship between two music-loving teenagers 20 years ago; Ahmad and school pal Brian O'Connell in Tappan, New York. At the time Ahmad's father, a pilot for Kuwait airlines, was based in the US.

"My first girlfriend, my first rock concert, the first time I picked up a guitar, all these things happened in America," Ahmad recalled.

Ahmad later invited Brian O'Connell to Pakistan to join him and a singer named Ali Azmat in a "Sufi rock" band that mixed Western rock with Eastern rhythms.

Since then, Junoon has sold more than 20 million records worldwide and has gained fans across political, social and cultural boundaries. The band's works are a melodic blend of Sufi mysticism and modern-day pragmatism.

Bass guitarist O'Connell, who says he is committed to bringing peoples and cultures together through the blend of his music, was quoted as saying, "Americans don't realise that our culture is portrayed very differently outside US.

"It's not all CNN, but you can't blame people here for thinking that, when that is their total exposure to America, just as you can't blame Americans for thinking Pakistan is all turbans and covered women. Our message of cultural exchange and understanding has become more appropriate after September 11," Brian said.

After the September attacks, Junoon raced to the US to do a series of shows at universities and high schools. Last October, it was the only Pakistani band to participate in a worldwide concert on Daniel Pearl Music Day, to remember the US reporter who was murdered in February 2002 in Karachi, Junoon's hometown.

Judea Pearl, Daniel's father, called Ahmad to tell him that his son admired the trio's music.

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