They are an international phenomenon. In Paris, France, UNESCO presented them with an award for Outstanding Achievements in Music and Peace. The BBC presented them with an award for Contribution to Asian Culture at the exclusive BBC Asian Awards Ceremony. They are the first-ever Asian band to have performed at the Roskilde Festival!, held annually near Copenhagen in Denmark at the end of June, and shared the stage with international acts Oasis, Pearl Jam, Pet Shop Boys, Bush, and the likes. They received a golden disc when their album Azaadi, became super hit in Asia -- they are Junoon.
Junoon, which means Obsession in Urdu, is comprised of the trio Salman Ahmed, Ali Azmat, and Brian O' Connell. Salman Ahmed, songwriter/lead guitarist/composer, born in Lahore, Pakistan, is an M.B.B.S. graduate from reputed King Edward Medical College. Regarding how he feels about wasting a seat, considering there's a high level of competition as far as getting a seat in medical colleges in Pakistan, he says "We are still helping people." He received a letter from a boy in Pakistan who had completely given up on his life. All he wanted to do now was die. And he was all geared to do that, too. He pointed a gun to his head and was about to blow the trigger when from his open window Junoon's hit song "Jazba-e-Junoon" flowed in. Hai Jazba-e-Junoon, to himmat na haar! "If you have the Spirit of Passion, never give up!" Justuju jo karey woh chuey aasmaan! "The one who perseveres reaches the Stars." The boy who was ready to take up his life seconds earlier threw the gun away and started crying. He realized how right those words were, and he decided not to give up hope. He decided to live.
Ahmed left Pakistan's biggest sensational pop band Vital Signs to pursue a different kind of music. He was well aware of the fact that he would have to start from zero, and though people might have thought of him as crazy to do so, his faith in himself and the desire to strive hard, coupled with his wife's support, accounted for his due success, eventually. Junoon came into being in 1990 when Ahmed teamed up with vocalist Ali Azmat, ex member of Jupiters, and contacted Brian O'Connell, a bass guitarist from America, inviting him to join the band. O'Connell left his steady job in America to accept Ahmed's offer. Ahmed and O'Connell have been friends since they were 13. They met while attending Tappan Zee High School together in New York. O'Connell, when asked about what he thought of the Asian crowd, said, "I love the Asian crowd," beaming with enthusiasm. "In fact I married one," he smiled. O'Connell is a dedicated husband to Pakistani model/actress Ayesha Alam. Azmat, on the other hand, was born in Abbottobad, Pakistan, and has done B.B.A. from Sydney, Australia.
Right from the release of their first album, titled Junoon, moving on to the release of their second album, Talaash, in 1993, and a considerably successful third album Inquilaab in 1996, which got everyone who still had their eyes shut towards this rising phenomenon to sit up and take notice, Junoon was building a fan following at an incredible momentum. However, the band's first real big hit sprang from the song "Jazbe-e-Junoon," which was the song of the 1996 Cricket World Cup. "Ehtesaab" (Accountability) was their second hit and was released in December 1996. The song mocked Pakistani politics and the video of the song was banned from PTV, Pakistan's State television. Their fourth album Kashmakash was released in 1996, which did fairly well. It was the year 1997 that saw their mega successful album titled Azaadi, which received a golden disc. And if sky was the limit for them, they reached for it with the album that followed in 1999, appropriately titled Parvaaz, which means "Flight" in Urdu.
The year 2000 marked a decade of Junoon with the release of The Millenium Edition 1990-2000. The album contains some of Junoon's best works. The album also features a brand new song, "Azaadi," which happens to be the soundtrack of Jinnah, the movie, including a never-before-heard version of "Allah hu" (live). One does wonder how tough a task it must have been to choose the songs for The Millennium Edition 1990-2000 from a huge collection of truly remarkable songs. ~ Maliha Ahmed Khan