Junoon’s anniversary album: Hit or miss?

Published: October 27, 2011

While youngster Usman Riaz proved his talent in his rendition of “Saeen” for Junoon’s 20th Anniversary Album, fellow newcomer Bilal Khan failed to impress. PHOTO: FILE

While youngster Usman Riaz proved his talent in his rendition of “Saeen” for Junoon’s 20th Anniversary Album, fellow newcomer Bilal Khan failed to impress. PHOTO: FILE
While youngster Usman Riaz proved his talent in his rendition of “Saeen” for Junoon’s 20th Anniversary Album, fellow newcomer Bilal Khan failed to impress. PHOTO: FILE
KARACHI: 

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.

Reader Comments (15)

  • Unreasonable patriot
    Oct 27, 2011 - 10:04PM

    Couldn’t agree more. Laal’s attempt at Neend Ati Nahin is horrendous!!! Laal without their regular lead singer really lacks impact and talent to be honest. And without their usual reliance on great revolutionary poets such as Faiz and Jalib, their pseudo-music can’t survive without their pseudo-intellectuality :p

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  • Ali Quaid
    Oct 27, 2011 - 10:24PM

    So true. Junoon’s formation was the best thing happened to Pakistani Music.

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  • Oct 27, 2011 - 11:00PM

    You mean Junoon’s death anniversary album ?

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  • Waleed
    Oct 28, 2011 - 12:03AM

    I think Bilal Khan is very, very talented but if I could tell him one thing it would be this: we don’t need more guys with just acoustic guitars showing up to be the next Jack Johnson/John Mayer. It’s tried, tested and becoming boring.

    Speaking of music, I keep finding a lack of originality in our Pakistani music industry. We need more new music acts that are bright, fun to listen to and/or stylistically different. Something FRESH! Something no one has done before. Something that you’d listen to over and over and over. Something that’s not death/black/heavy metal. Good personalities help too. International example: something along the lines of Coldplay. Local example: our very own Strings.

    But then again now doesn’t seem like the best time for fresh/exciting bands to emerge, what with the country’s dire political situation and all. I do hope some people come along soon though.

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  • Accay Hasn
    Oct 28, 2011 - 12:59AM

    This is a great review ,, says the truth!!

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  • foruchandan
    Oct 28, 2011 - 7:07AM

    as usual Paki men are awasome

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  • Waqas
    Oct 28, 2011 - 8:59AM

    @Waleed, you might not like heavy metal yourself, but there is a large population in Pakistan who does like it. So please don’t belittle heavy metal :-)

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  • JaySabir
    Oct 28, 2011 - 10:05AM

    Junoon – Ali Azmat = Lame

    Ali Azmat – Salman’s guitars = Lame

    However,
    Ali Azmat + Salman Ahmed + Brian ‘o’ Connel = EPIC!

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  • easywiththepraise
    Oct 28, 2011 - 10:57AM

    aag’s cover of mitti is anything but a 21st century reaction to the song. It sounds like the same song except that instead of junoon some nameless ke3l adolescent kids from elitist lahore schools are singing it. Recommend

  • Asim Husain Khan
    Oct 28, 2011 - 11:47AM

    I have attended some concerts of Junoon. They sure were a phenomena to say the least, backed up by some solid music, lyrics and vocals.

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  • Oct 28, 2011 - 4:38PM

    nodoubt junoon play a dominant role in pakistan music , and hv no doubt abt new talent like bilal khan, he is the best

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  • Zeeshan
    Oct 28, 2011 - 10:42PM

    The 90s was the best period for Pakistani music scene. Just imagine that we grew up listening to Vital Signs, Junoon, Strings, Karavan, Najam, Awaz, Ali Haider. Even a few songs from Collage and Fringe Benefits were classics. These bands at that time had a passion for music. They did not worry if the album would sell or not, they just made music from their heart. And we had some pure genius composers in Rohail Hyatt and Salman Ahmad.

    Boy have things changed. Everything is now commercialized. When I first heard about Junoon’s 20th Anniversary album, I got excited…really excited. It had been a while since Junoon came up with any thing fresh and new. I also found out that some new talented artists would reprise some old Junooni hits. And I just couldn’t wait to get my hands on the songs. Well, after listening to the songs there is one thing that is missing…Ali Azmat!!! Junoon was a band and one of the members can’t just go ahead and do any thing that he likes. I am a die hard fan of Junoon and I am quite disappointed. Yes, some songs are great…Usman Riaz’s rendition of Saeein is brilliant. But this is not a Junoon album. It is a Salman Ahmad album.

    First Vital Signs betrayed us by not releasing that final 5th album and now Junoon (or I should say Salman Ahmad) has betrayed us by not including Ali Azmat. Yes, we have some new talented artists and Rohail Hyatt has created masterpieces with the Coke Studio project but I still miss the music from the 90s. I just have three wishes: 1) Awaz coming back with Haroon, Faakhir, and Asad; 2) Junoon coming back for one last original album; and 3) Vital Signs releasing their promised 5th album. If this happens, all will be forgiven!

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  • hamza
    Oct 29, 2011 - 11:33PM

    @Zeeshan:
    dude respect ur views alot….i miss junoon too i mean im just 16 years old and ive been grown up listening to these bands and i still hope one day all these things will be back on track we just have to wait and hope for the best!!

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  • Ali S
    Nov 1, 2011 - 12:08PM

    @Waqas:

    I love rock, but I have yet to see one Pakistani metal band that can impress other than being able to scream like a strangulated cat.

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  • Nov 12, 2011 - 7:05PM

    what a joke LAAAL … insulting junoon

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