An Exclusive interview of Salman Ahmad with Fifi Haroon for Newsweek Pakistan
Where did the idea to celebrate 20 years of Junoon come from?
Someone tweeted me the YouTube link to Junoon’s first ever PTV appearance. I saw that carefree video [for “Neend Ati Nahin”] on the beach and thought that’s not the Karachi we see now. So much has changed. I tweeted that and got hundreds of tweets back about those days. So I thought it might be a good idea to celebrate something for a change.
What acts have you lined up for the Junoon tribute double-album?
Normally milestones are about the band, but Junoon 20 is about the music. So I was looking for people who like our music to interpret our songs. I didn’t want just covers. I called Bilal Khan. For a few minutes he was absolutely speechless when I asked him if he would be a part of the album. Someone sent me this instrumental video of Usman Riaz’s “Firefly,” which I loved and he’s doing “Saeein” for us. Then there’s Outlandish, Shafqat Amanat Ali, Jal’s Farhan and Gohar, Samina and Momina, Aag, Laal and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. Of course, there will be several original Junoon songs there, too. And new ones like “Chand Sitara,” which is only the second anthem Shoaib Mansoor has ever written. All proceeds from the album will go toward charity work in Pakistan.
Do you think fans can relate to you singing the songs instead of Ali?
Listen, Peter Gabriel was the lead singer of Genesis, and then he left the band to start a solo career. Phil Collins, who was the drummer, took over and continued with Genesis. It’s not unheard of; there are numerous bands where this has happened. I have the greatest respect for Ali as an artist and performer; having said that, my life doesn’t begin and end with Ali Azmat. I’m a student of music and Junoon is the vehicle through which I practice my craft. So, yes, I learned how to sing. Now I am at the stage where Peter Gabriel wants to do an entire album with me. I have collaborated with Ziggy Marley and Melissa Etheridge after Ali left. No one in Kashmir said we aren’t coming to the Dal Lake concert because Ali wasn’t coming. A band is like a marriage. Sometimes a spouse leaves and then the other person manages on their own.