Junoon (Urdu: جنون) (meaning "obsession" in Urdu and "craziness" in Arabic) is one of Pakistan and South Asia's most popular Rock bands, based out of Lahore, Pakistan, and formed in 1990 by guitarist/songwriter/medical doctor Salman Ahmad. At the time, Junoon consisted of two other members: Ali Azmat on vocals and Nusrat Hussain on keyboards.
The name Junoon, as the band was so named, came to lead guitarist Salman Ahmad in his dream. He said that in his dream he saw one of his teachers shaking him and said, "Tumhey mousiqui ka Junoon hai!" (meaning "You have an obsession for music!").Most popular song of JUNOON was (jazba-i-junoon) was released in 1992 just prior to world cup cricket tournament,in which their home country won the prestige.
Though the band's first album, the self titled "Junoon" barely made a dent in the Pakistani music industry, their second album "Talaash" (the quest) began creating a cult following for Junoon.
It was only after their 1995 release of their third album "Inquilaab" (Revolution), that Junoon developed a nationwide fan following, blending rock guitars and bluesy vocals with eastern elements like the use of tablas (traditional south Asian hand drums), raga-inspired melodies, traditional Pakistani folk music, and Eastern inspired poetry.
The band were one of the first bands in Pakistan to insist on playing live music where most music was sampled and programmed synth pop. Heavily influenced by rock bands like Led Zeppelin, Junoon aimed at combining loud guitar riffs with the tranquility of sufi poetry by the likes of Maulana Rumi, Allama Iqbal and Baba Bulleh Shah.
Success didn't come easy to Junoon as they tried to defy traditions in a conservative country like Pakistan. Their politically influenced songs were often subject to censorship, which led to the eventual ban from all state run television and radio during the rule of former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
In 1998, the band took both Pakistan and India by storm with their hit single "Sayonee" which was part of their tremendously successful fourth studio album "Azadi" (Freedom) released by EMI. In 1999, Junoon released their fifth studio album "Parvaaz" (The Flight), which was based mostly on the poetry of Baba Bulleh Shah. "Parvaaz" was recorded and mixed at Abbey Road Studios in London and was hailed by critics as Junoon's finest work to date. Junoon won the award of "Best International Group" at the Channel V Music Awards in New Delhi, India in November 1999, where Sting, Def Leppard, and Prodigy performed with Junoon.
UNESCO invited Junoon to perform at their Millennium Peace concert in 1999 in Paris. The synergy created by Junoon aimed at peace, was an inspiration to all those present, which included renowned legendary artists like Lionel Richie, Dr. K.J. Yesudas, Ray Charles, Montserrat Caballé and Zubin Mehta conducting the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra. The famous actors Gregory Peck, Sidney Poitier, and Peter Ustinov were the masters of ceremony. Dignitaries from around the world, including the heads of the European union and the ambassadors from 170 countries attended this global event.
Compilation albums of the bands music and videos were released in 2000 (Junoon 1990-2000). Junoon released "Ishq" in 2001 and "Dewaar" in 2003. Salman Ahmad was appointed Goodwill Ambassador by the United Nations, attending a Special Session of the UN General Assembly. Following the 9/11 attacks, Junoon helped to organise a concert at the General Assembly on UN Day with Junoon and an Indian group performing at the Assembly Hall, a first of its kind. They also released their first English-language single, "No more" - an anti-violence song which deals directly with the events of that day. However they called "No More" as their first English song but before "No More" they had released English songs in their first two albums such as "Our Land", "Lady Magic", "Downtown Princess", "Game Of Chance". The song "No More" is the first English song for which Junoon made a video.
Junoon has been the most successful Pakistani group in history, having toured extensively around the planet, including at the renowned European rock festival, Roskilde in June 2000, where Pearl Jam, Iron Maiden, Travis, Queensrÿche, and over 200 other world famous artists performed. The band has been across Asia, Europe, North America, the Middle East, and performed for kings, queens, presidents and prime ministers across the globe.
Junoon's track "Garaj Baras" was selected as part of a Bollywood movie soundtrack in 2003 for the Pooja Bhatt film Paap, which topped the charts again in that country in 2004. The band's controversial single "Pappu Yaar" again shot to the #1 spot in Pakistan.
In 2005, Brian O'Connell returned to his native New York. Pakistani musician Mekal Hassan and the band's producer John Alec have been playing bass guitar for live shows in his place. A reunion concert took place in Dubai, UAE in March 2006.
Both band members Ali Azmat and Salman Ahmad have released their debut solo album in the market. Nowadays they are both busy supporting their solo albums.
Salman Ahmad said in a few interviews that Junoon will release their 8th studio album in the year of 2007.
As it goes for Junoon's music, what has been seen is that their music, lyrics and sound is based upon issues of today. Their music has been one major force which has truly kept the national spirits high amidst the prevailing social woes which have surely worsened in the last three decades. Such music included songs like Jazba-E-Junoon, Sayonee, Talaash, Main kaun hun and many more. Considering everything mentioned on this page, it is not surprising to learn that the popularity, standard and stature of Junoon is considered to be the same as that of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan or Lata Mangeshkar. Junoon's music has captivated the Pakistani youth for well over ten years and they were the only saving grace to Pakistani music on the international scene after the departure of Pakistani pop-music heavyweights, Nazia Hassan, Zohaib Hassan and the Vital Signs.
One of the legendary tours that Junoon had undertaken was their tour to Denmark and Europe in 2000-2001. This tour played a pivotal role in increasing Junoon's international popularity and standing and in spreading awareness about Pakistani music.
Junoon has played a major role in bringing the people of India and Pakistan close to one another. When tensions were high after the nuclear explosions in 1998, Junoon's' "Yaaron yehi dosti hai" was being played quite enthusiastically across music channels in India which also had a sizeable audience in Pakistan. Junoon's viewpoints on nuclear tests were loud enough to reach the White House. Their claim that rather than spending billions on nuclear weapons which would basically cause nothing more ruthless destruction, should be spent on spreading the light of education, alleviating poverty and providing good socio-health care conditions to the masses.
However, what was untold back then, was the erupting tensions and rivalry among band members. All this came into the limelight in 2002, when Salman Ahmad moved to the United States and Brian commented in an interview to Dawn's Images that his position in Junoon was 'temporarily non-existent'. Junoon managed to get a break from all these controversies when they released the super-hit Pappu Yaar Tang na Kar. Still, the rivalry did not end here. The band members separated for about two years during which Ali Azmat, released the highly acclaimed Social Circus. This album, alongside Atif Aslam's Jalpari, Jal's Aadat and Fakhir's Mantra has sold very well in the market. Ali Azmat's Naa re Naa won him many awards by the music channel Indus Music and also at the Lux Style Awards.
Ali Azmat (Lead Vocalist)
- Previously was in Jupiters.
- Recently released a solo album Social Circus.
- Activist and founder of the musicians rights league.
- Icon of angry youth.
- Host of a famous youth talkshow "Pappu yaar tang na kar".
- Songwriter and was the driving force of junoon`s sufi-rock.
Salman Ahmad (Guitar/Songwriter)
- Previously was in Eclipse, Eastern Winds, The Doctor's League (pop band)
- Previously was in the band Vital Signs.
- Brought up in Rockland County, New York.
- Appeared in the VH1 News Special Islamabad Rock City, a rockumentary on Junoon hosted by Susan Sarandon
- Appeared in the PBS/BBC documentary The Rockstar and the Mullahs in 2004.
- Appeared in the PBS/BBC documentary It's My Country Too in 2005.
- UN Goodwill Ambassador for HIV/Aids
- Made two appearances on Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher in 2001.
Brian O'Connell (Bass)
- A U.S. citizen by origin who eventually called Pakistan his home.
- Was friends with Salman Ahmad long before Junoon was formed.
- Joined the band during the second album Talaash in 1992.
- Responsible for harmonising the western 5-string bass riffs with the traditional tabla and drums.
- Was married to Pakistani actress and model Ayesha Alam whom he met in Karachi during a concert and subsequently fell in love with. The two soon married and had two lovely girls, Rachel and Ally. Brian was widely reported to be a dedicated father, who spent every free moment with his girls. Swimming was always on top of his list. But after 12 years together, Ayesha and Brian divorced in 2003.
- Announced departure from the band in 2004
- Started a guitar school in karachi.
- Now resides in East Babylon, NY.Taking treatment for his depression and has recently opened a guitar institute in NY.
Shehryar Ahmad (Band Manager)
- Designed www.junoon.com as the first Pakistani music website.
- Joined the band to release the Azadi album, negotiating the band's first international record deal with EMI World.
- Arranged Junoon's first international tour of the US, UK, Europe, the Middle East, Japan, China and India.
- Negotiated largest endorsement contract with Coke in 2003.
- Announced departure from the band in 2005 to join BMA Capital, an investment bank.
John Alec (Producer/Bassist)
- Mixed and produced Azadi, Parvaaz, Ishq, Daur-e-Junoon, and Deewar
- Childhood friend of founder Salman Ahmad
- Owns J.A. Studios in New York
- Started playing bass for Junoon after Brian's departure from the band
Nusrat Hussain (Keyboards)
- Was previously with the band Vital Signs.
- Was part of Junoon only during the debut album.
- Was the voice behind the first composition and hit 'Khawab'.
- Went on to release a solo album in 1992.
- Is a pilot for Pakistan International Airlines.
- Junoon expressed interest in singing with Morten Harket, vocalist of the Norwegian band a-ha. Morten Harket and Junoon teamed up for a duet in 2001.
- Junoon has also sung a cover of the Morten Harket song " Holy Ground ".
- Salman who is the UN Goodwill ambassador for HIV Aids, was invited once again recently to perform at the UN General Assembly Hall with Richard Gere, Whoopi Goldberg, Naomi Watts, Wyclef Jean (from the Fugees) and Jackie Chan in 2006.