Just moments before the Vibes 2005 show held recently, City Times caught up with members of the Pakistani band Junoon, Ali Azmat and Salman Ahmed. We took up some big controversies that have surrounded the band for several years now and Ali explained the real deal behind them.

By Asim Aqeel (Contributor)

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Published: Sat 16 Apr 2005, 2:10 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 5:58 PM

Meanwhile Salman, talked about his award winning documentaries, which have also landed him in a tight spot. But the revolutionist Salman that we met wasn't going to let the little things bother him and takes the challenges head on.

You did some phenomenal documentaries, Salman; how did you get into that?

Salman:I actually got into this by accident. A couple of years ago PBS invited me. They wanted to get someone who understood Western culture and someone who was also known in Pakistan. So I did the first documentary in 2003, it's called the Rock star and the Mullahs. That film won a lot of awards in New York.

Tell us a little about them.

Salman: I had a personal reason for doing that (Rock Star and the Mullahs) film because as you know I started off in Vital Signs. The lead singer of that band, Junaid Jamshed, left music and I asked him the reason. He said, the mufti saab says its forbidden. I told him that he is a national icon and his Dil Dil Pakistan was a huge rage, then how could his singing be bad. He didn't have any answers. A year and a half later, I got a letter from Farhat Hashmi, a religious scholar. I really took offence because I believe in what I do. I don't go about saying I do music as a side hobby but actually I'm a doctor. I say music's my career, I'm proud to be known as a musician. So when this film came and the subject matter was what I had been living with such a long time I just dove into it.

What about your second album?

Salman: That was a great opportunity, because I feel for the Muslim Americans. I feel for Muslims all over but, I'm a Pakistani American, I grew up in America. Since 9/11 things are so difficult for Muslims. They don't know what to do. Do they defend their religion or do they be natural. So I met these people who had some really positive stories. People who are saying ‘This is my country too, and I'm a Muslim’. There are good and bad people in the world. The American community should differentiate between people who are bad, like the terrorists and the good people. There are one billion Muslims in the world. If less than a per cent is responsible for these terrorist acts you don't blame the billion-strong community.

Tell us about your new album, Infinity.

Salman: I'm excited because I don't have the pressure of making a Junoon album. So I'm really relaxed. There's a lot of focus on the guitars. It's the sort of music I love playing and listening to. I'm recording it with two of my close friends John Alec and Jay Dittano who are brilliant musicians and it should be out in July.

Has Brian O' Connell left Junoon or is he going to come back?

Ali: Brian's not well; he suffered some nerve damage from an arm injury during an accident in Karachi. He's getting treated in America these days and going through some physiotherapy. Who knows (if he's coming back), he's 42 years old and he's tired of touring. It's very hectic to be on the road all the time and playing for thousands while you are alone. He is officially out of Junoon and Mekaal's playing with us now. His (Brian's) future with Junoon is definitely uncertain. As far as being friends, we're still in touch with each other. He calls and sends e-mails. Salman lives in America so they're in touch too. But he's going through some rough time basically.

Why is everyone going solo? Is Junoon breaking up?

Ali: No. After about sixteen years of playing together, you get tired of doing the same thing. Like I said before its very dysfunctional. So we just keep experimenting with different things so just to keep you busy, happy and creatively alive.

Tell us how the addition of Mekaal Hassan has been for Junoon.

Ali: Mekaal's been a good friend. We recorded two albums with him and he's a very talented musician. We asked him to come and play with us and he agreed. He's got his own band as well, the Mekaal Hassan Band. We're all doing different things along with keeping Junoon together. Like my solo album Social Circus.

Social Circus, how did that name come about?

Ali: I see around me and I see one big circus and we're some sort of clowns, the entertainers, coming and doing some juggling and doing our thing and somehow trying to get by and that's how I see life, so I named it Social Circus.

How's Social Circus different from the Junoon albums?

Ali: The album Social Circus is vocally very different and its guitars, the music, the art work, everything is different from Junoon or anyone else that exists in Pakistan musically today. Once you hear the album, once you see the live shows of Ali Azmat, you'd find out that I'm actually trying to create a new sound here, not necessarily trying to break away from one band to another and jump the ship. But it's just to keep you happy, creatively alive and keep the juices flowing.

Any advice to all the newcomers that we've seen these days?

Ali: Remember that it's not a six month or a one year thing. I've been in it for about eighteen years. After about ten years or so you just start understanding the game a little bit and after eighteen years I feel I don't know anything about this game at all. It's just natural, but you've got to be yourself and hope that it goes where you want to take it. I won't give anyone my advice because you might end up in a ditch somewhere.

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