Junoon’s formation in 1990 was arguably the best thing that happened to Pakistani music as three passionate musicians went on to change the face of music in the subcontinent. Last month (September 30, 2011) marked 20 years of the pioneers of sufi rock in Pakistan and as part of the celebration, numerous artists from all around world collaborated for a tribute to the band in the form of a 20th Anniversary Album.
Although, a complete compilation of the album hasn’t been released yet, a few songs are being circulated on social networking sites.
Usman Riaz’s fresh take on “Saeen”
The youngster brings a very fresh version of the Junoon classic “Saeen”, which featured in the band’s best-selling album Inquilaab. Every note of Riaz’s version of “Saeen” proves what a genius this 21-year-old is. From the very beginning of the song, one can tell that it is a carefully thought-out piece of art and not just a random cover by an aspiring musician. Violin is Riaz’s magic wand as he infuses a unique, dark feel to an instrumental cover, bringing forth a new spirit with percussions, keyboard and masterful guitar playing. From the beautifully recorded live instruments to the smart arrangements, the song is riveting and cautiously structured, taking one to an endless spiritual journey. Riaz, the one-man show who has the potential of single-handedly pulling off a great performance at “Coke Studio”, is definitely someone we can have high expectations from.
Aag covers “Mitti” to perfection
Aag — consisting of Usman Sheikh and Haroon Sheikh — is one band that has been creating quite a stir with their mature understanding of progressive rock music as well as stylish instrument playing. Aag undertook the daunting task of covering one of the most timeless melodies by Salman Ahmad “Mitti” and they actually did a phenomenal job. As Ahmad puts it in one of his interviews, “This rendition is the 21st century take on ‘Mitti’.” That might not be an overstatement as the band rediscovers “Mitti” to perfection both, in terms of guitar solos and decent vocals.
Bilal Khan’s cover is all over the place
Bilal Khan is an innovative musician and one of the finest upcoming pop artists in the country but he seems to have been stuck in his “Coke Studio” mode. His take on Junoon’s “Main Aur Tum” is soothing but sounds like a very half-hearted attempt at the stalwarts’ song. Khan’s rendition of “Main Aur Tum” lacks majorly in terms of audio production, failing to leave an impact on the listeners. By the end, it sounds like a naat or hamd on TV.
Laal fails to do justice to “Neend Aati Nahin”
This one is, by far, the most disappointing tribute to Junoon as Laal has failed to do an iota of justice to a song that is so deeply etched in our childhood memories. “Neend Aati Nahin” was the first video ever released by Junoon and Laal has ruined the song with unimpressive singing which was carried out in the form of a duet. With some great numbers like “Umeed-e-Sahar” and “Jaag Meray Punjab”, one expects quality and more effort from a band like Laal. On the contrary, their version of “Neend Aati Nahin” reflects the lack of basic musical intellect and is a lesson for all the musicians out there that they should only attempt what they are capable of doing.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 28th, 2011.