An open letter to Salman Ahmad from a former 'Junooni'

Published: January 8, 2017
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Junoon Band member, Salman Ahmad. PHOTO: PINTEREST

Junoon Band member, Salman Ahmad. PHOTO: PINTEREST

Dear Mr Ahmad,

For the love of music, Junoon, and all that is holy, please stop singing, recording, and rereleasing old Junoon songs and stop calling yourself Junoon altogether. You are ruining the songs and the legacy of the band for all of us. Forever.

Let me begin by saying that I am one of the earliest and biggest Junoon fans. I was 13-years-old when Junoon came out and I vividly remember buying that cassette tape from a small music shop in Nazimabad #4. I remember being ecstatic to hear the distorted guitar riff of Chori Chori and also a bit uneasy when my parents asked me in a disapproving tone what I was listening to.

Junoon to release new album on 25th anniversary

That is when I knew I was going to be a Junooni, an instant rebel, listening to the first Pakistani rock band on my cassette player. I literally broke that tape in the coming months, listening to it day in and out; although I do admit that I would fast-forward the two tracks Game of Chance and Downtown Princess, mostly because they were sung in English and also because they sounded way off compared to what the rest of the album was about.

I had just started to learn the guitar at the time and Heer was one of the first songs I starting playing. You were a hero for me; a prolific Pakistani electric guitar player who was mixing Eastern scales into his rock solos. I was mesmerized, especially by Sunn. What a song!

Next came Talaash. I remember getting the album free with a tube of toothpaste, even though it was not the complete album. It only had six songs, I believe, but it had Talaash, Heeray, and Woh, which are still to this day some of my favorite Junoon songs.

By the time Inquilaab was released, I was older and was regularly attending your concerts in Karachi like a true Junooni, going wild on songs like Saeen, Husan Walon and Mera Mahi. You guys used to play at the Bahria Auditorium on Karsaz every weekend, sometimes on both Thursday and Friday nights (because Friday and Saturday used to be off and Sunday was a working day then), and I would be there, standing in the front, rocking out to your songs every week, sometimes on both nights.

Junoon once played at the Alliance Francaise in Karachi and I could not afford the tickets, so my friend and I snuck in early after school and stayed hidden behind the stage until it was show time many hours later. I got to witness you do the sound check. I even met you that day and we had a little talk. That was one of my best days from that time.

Junoon reunion not happening

Then came my late teens and heartbreak. I would find solace in songs like Kyoun Pareshan and Mukh Gaye Nay from Azaadi. Soon, I left Karachi and went on to my university, where you truly continued to be an inspiration to me. I performed Heer on stage for my university’s talent show, and later also played in a band where we used to play an acoustic version of Heeray. I remember being in the States at that time and Junoon would be the music that united all Pakistanis there.

Songs like Sayonee, Mahiwal, and when Parvaaz came out, Bulleya, Pyar Bina, and Sajna, could be heard all over the campus. Since then, whenever I hear these songs, it brings an overwhelming wave of nostalgia over me, as I am reminded of those evocative days in college where Junoon was the greatest, most iconic sufi/rock band ever. I know that you came out with a few more albums after that but I was not able to listen to them in their entirety as I had a chance to do so with all the previous albums, especially after I heard the more pop-sounding Pappu Yaar, which was a grave departure for me from Junoon, although that album had Tara Jala, a great song.

It was quite sad when I heard that Junoon had decided to break up with you, Mr Azmat, and Mr Connell going their separate ways. I did not follow Junoon after that because to me, the band was over. But I recall that you continued to take the name forward and even came out with an album or two.

It was only yesterday that I had a chance to hear a mangled version of Bulleya called Bulleya/Lonely Heart from your 2010 album Rock & Roll Jihad, which only includes you as the sole member from the band but the album is credited as being produced and recorded by Junoon. In this version, not only do you (badly) sing the song, you have also changed the chorus from “Buleya kee jana mein kaun?” to say “Lonely heart. Help me heal.” No. Just no. As soon as I heard this atrocity, I was enraged and I immediately wished I had never listened to it. This new version has completely ruined the original song for me. Now I cannot listen to the old song without hearing you sing “Lonely heart. Help me heal.” And that is not ok. All my wistful memories associated with that song are ruined. Destroyed. Decimated. Forever.

I also found out that you have recently rerecorded Khwab from the first album in your voice and that you plan on releasing this new version on an album “celebrating” the 25th anniversary of Junoon. Again, to my great dismay, when I heard the song, I found you had changed the melody. Of Khwab! Please stop this. Please stop messing with classic old Junoon songs by re-releasing them in your voice. Even though I feel that Meray Pass Aaja from Junoon is a brilliant song and you did a very good job singing it, please understand that singing is not your forte. Why would you even want to do this? Why would you want to re-sing these old songs and re-record them? Many bands have broken up in the past and the individual members have all moved on, gone on to create new songs, doing various other projects. I am not aware of any member from any band who was a guitarist and who has gone on after a split to continue singing the band’s old songs in his or her own voice, releasing them again and again in new albums. Singing them and playing at concerts is fine because they are your songs and people come to listen to them. But please. Do not re-record them in your voice. Save us all the horror and stop spoiling Junoon songs and the band’s legacy.

When Junoon called for accountability, they meant it

Also, how is it Junoon’s 25th anniversary? Didn’t the band break up and split in 2005 when Ali Azmat left? Or possibly even in 2003 when Brian left? That’s at least 11 years ago! The band is done and dusted. It’s finished. Stop calling yourself Junoon, especially if you are going to release Indian movie songs like Kaise Bolun, where you are singing auto-tuned lines like, “I am in love, soul to soul.” Quit doing it in Junoon’s name if you are going to sing such crappy non-Junoon-like songs like Door.

Make a new band. Call it whatever you want to but not Junoon because Junoon, along with you, was Ali Azmat, Brian O’Connell, Malcolm Goveas, and Ustad Ashiq Ali Mir (the last two you unfortunately never officially recognised as being part of the band; sadly enough, neither Malcolm nor Ustad sahab’s name appear anywhere related to Junoon, not on your website and not on your Wikipedia pages).

Junoon is no more (pun intended). It is dead. Accept that and move on. Let the dead lie and also spare Junoon’s fans from having to go through the trauma of hearing bastardised versions of the songs that mean so much to them. You are not only destroying the songs, you are destroying the nostalgia associated with them.

It pains me immensely to see and hear what Junoon’s legacy has become and you are the only one ruining it. I would urge you, nay plead with you, to please stop with this nonsense and stop further ruining Junoon for all of us forever.

Sincerely,

A Junooni who no longer wishes to be one.

 

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Reader Comments (13)

  • Ali S
    Jan 8, 2017 - 11:07AM

    Agreed, to this day the idea of a Pakistani rock band has not been embodied better than circa mid to late 90s Junoon. The dignified way for Salman to pursue his post-Junoon career would be to take the Santanor Slash solo a route – write and play on his own songs (he is a great guitarist and probably the best songwriter in Pakistan) but hire guest vocalists to sing.Recommend

  • Danish
    Jan 8, 2017 - 1:01PM

    Listen to him Salman!Recommend

  • Raza
    Jan 8, 2017 - 1:45PM

    agreed!Recommend

  • Asim Husain Khan
    Jan 8, 2017 - 1:55PM

    Exactly how i feelRecommend

  • HHK
    Jan 8, 2017 - 2:44PM

    100% Agreed, this is what happen when you don’t get retirement at your peak!Recommend

  • Sam
    Jan 8, 2017 - 5:35PM

    Agreed, a 100%. I feel ur pain. And as a Junooni, I call upon Mr. Ahmed to stop making a mockery out of Junoon.Recommend

  • Aayan
    Jan 8, 2017 - 8:15PM

    Well, to some extent I agree with this guy that he should not mess with the classic songs but, he was the founding member of Junoon and he has all the right to use that name first. Secondly, why should someone stop singing because of one guy asking him to? This makes no sense. If you are not a Junooni anymore, cool! You don’t have too. If your love for Junoon was timely, you are sick. Love is forever and “attraction” is timely. Sorry to say but you were attacted to Junoon and you never loved them!Recommend

  • Shah
    Jan 8, 2017 - 8:18PM

    Hahaha. He is in PTI now so he can do whatever he wants which includes releases albums as Junoon and singing badly. Recommend

  • M2A
    Jan 9, 2017 - 3:49AM

    Exactly my sentiments. He has already damaged Junoon’s brand and needs to learn from Awaz and many other bands alike. Once the band broke up, Fakhir, Haroon and Asad went their own ways and no one tried to leverage Awaz’s songs for their solo careers.
    Junoon was one of the biggest bands of 90s and it would be a great favour if Salman lets it to stay the same by not re-recording their songs.Recommend

  • Samie Tariq
    Jan 10, 2017 - 1:42PM

    I picked up my guitar because of Junoon. I never reply to these posts but this just plucked the right notes.

    Salman as a visionary has given us a sound that can never be replicated. I think the legacy should not be tampered with.

    I’d suggest rebranding and following what really is music to him as an artist rather than trying to stay current.

    We definitely need that sound back in the midst of all the crap on the radio.Recommend

  • Shaj
    Jan 10, 2017 - 9:49PM

    Best article ever.Recommend

  • Aisha
    Jan 11, 2017 - 1:06PM

    trust me it worst when he lip sings on Ali Azman voice… so bad Recommend

  • Rocky
    Jan 19, 2017 - 7:43PM

    Totally Agreed!

    quote- “the last two you unfortunately never officially recognised as being part of the band; sadly enough, neither Malcolm nor Ustad sahab’s name appear anywhere related to Junoon, not on your website and not on your Wikipedia pages

    Really sad. I believe Dholak and Tabla played almost equal role as Guitar in Junoon’s success. Personal egos killed “Junoon” :(

    Nice article brother!!!Recommend

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