Salman Ahmad: Sufi on a mission

Musician Salman Ahmad is making some big waves this year.

Saadia Qamar June 23, 2011


Salman Ahmad is unstoppable. The talented guitarist released his much hyped memoir last year, titled Rock’n’Roll Jihad (RRJ), in which he narrates his ‘junoon’ (pun intended) for rock music, harmony and world peace. This year, the self-professed Sufi’s song “Natchoon Gi”, will be featured on the music compilation of the David Lynch Foundation led by legendary Hollywood producer David Lynch.

The singer has also been globetrotting far and wide to perform at international platforms. He just recently played at the Mundial festival in Holland alongside veteran musician Moby and other well known global artists. Despite all these impressive achievements, the rock musician appears to be busy garnering more feathers in his cap. Ahmad is in talks with legendary British musician Peter Gabriel for recording a new album and he also recently met film director Mira Nair in New York to discuss music for her next film, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, based on Mohsin Hamid’s novel. The energetic artist has still more planned for 2011: He’s doing his first Bollywood soundtrack for a film about a rock band. Additionally, Ahmad is also busy in myriad upcoming social projects in Pakistan.

The Express Tribune caught up with Sufi Sal (as the musician calls himself) to talk about his recent endeavours.

Why did The David Lynch Foundation (DLF), which promotes education in transcendental meditation techniques, decide to sponsor your track ‘Natchoon Gi’?

David Lynch loved “Natchoon Gi” from my 2006 album Infiniti. He asked me to provide that track for his work at DLF. Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Peter Gabriel and Maroon 5 are also part of this project, which seeks to raise money for one million school children.

“Natchoon Gi” is a Sufi dance track with an infectious rhythm; its lyrics are in Urdu, Punjabi and English. The song has addictive dhol, bass and guitars with overlapping vocals by me and American musician Valerie Geffner. The track’s producer, Dave Sisko, has also worked previously with Gwen Stefani and Justin Timberlake. I’m thrilled at how the number has developed!

What other social activities are keeping you busy?

In 2009, my wife Samina and I organised the ‘Salman and Samina Global Wellness Initiative Concert for Paki-stan’ at the UN General Assembly Hall to help raise awareness about Pakistan’s three million  IDP’s.

Last year I recorded “Open Your Eyes Pakistan” with Peter Gabriel and teamed up with overseas Pakistani organisations, high schools, colleges and Islamic relief institutions to help raise over a million dollars for Pakistan’s flood victims.

Currently we are working on a project to build schools in Thatta and Mansehra. We are also planning to launch the ART initiative — an acronym for Aman (peace), Rozi (occupation) and Taleem (education). This will be an apolitical campaign to bring together Pakistani women and men from all walks in life to lobby to the government for these basic needs. I have connected with hundreds of prominent Pakistanis who have all agreed that the time is now to raise our voices for peace and stability in Pakistan. We will be launching an ART social media campaign and also do ground events across Pakistan in 2012.

Finally, what has been the response to your book?

The response has been very satisfying, especially for a debutante. I have received thousands of emails and tweets from readers. In fact RRJ is also required reading at many American colleges including Harvard University, Smith, Kansas, Claremont and Princeton University.

In Holland, they want to translate RRJ into Dutch and I’m also planning to have it translated into Urdu and other Pakistani regional languages. I’m now working on my next book about Pakistani music.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 24th, 2011.


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ligto | 9 years ago | Reply

@Dr Omar. Music did not propagate Islam in Indo Pak. It was the sufi thought dessimated through their poetry that attracted the common man towards them. This whole music thing is the offshoot of Mujawarism and Gaddi Nashheni that followed and still persists. What you see at the sufi shrines today is nothing to do with Islam or even Civilization in general. Melas, pickpockets, drugg addicts, dhamal and dhol tamasha is not sufism. ... In my opinion only the darwesh seen in turkey can be placed somewhere in sufism.

Jawad Khan | 9 years ago | Reply

"Sufi" is probably the most understood terminology among muslims.....

The pre-requisite to being a Sufi is strictly following the Shariah......No one can claim to be a Sufi without following the Sunnah of the Prophet and the laws of the Shariah...

This is a highly misunderstood theory that Sufis are above Shariah and they can do whatever they want...

All Sufis strictly adhered to the Shariah and those who didn't, do not deserve to be called Sufis

Nobody is above the Prophet and Sahaba....when they are bound to the Shariah how can some "wanna be" Sufi be above it.

May ALlah(SWT) guide us all

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