An Exclusive interview of Ali Azmat with Fifi Haroon for Newsweek Pakistan
Did Salman get in touch with you for Junoon 20?
He sent me emails, but I didn’t reply. There are some issues between me and him. I don’t want to associate my name with Junoon anymore because he has used false marketing. Fans are calling me saying why weren’t you there? People call me and say ‘you’re in breach of contract; you didn’t appear for the show.’ For him it’s a cash cow—he can do whatever the hell he wants but it doesn’t make it right. His reaching out, it seems like a commercial need. I’d rather do something for the music. They’re flogging a dead horse. If you bring a band back it has to be for great music and that’s it.
What was Junoon’s high point?
Inquilaab was one. That was the time we were actually being a band, exchanging ideas and having fun together. Then the changes started happening: Salman thinking he’s god and can be insensitive to the rest of us. So what if he sent emails to Bono or bullshitted his way around? That doesn’t impress me at all. Now he writes about me saying I’ve become racist, a joke to humanity. He says that I wasn’t a Sufi and we used to force me to sing those songs. Well, if you ask me it’s better to be a conspiracy theorist than a drama queen.
Did you believe in the Sufi ideals Junoon espoused in its music?
Of course I believed in it. I believed in it more than he did. For him it was all about wearing surma and a maala so he could look the part.
How do you feel about Junoon’s place in Pakistani music history?
We brought in foreign riffs into Pakistan and mixed them up with local folk, which was unique at the time. We experimented with ideas and then took them back to the world. We worked hard and played some good music. To give the devil his due, Salman is one of the best songwriters from Pakistan. We were also the first Pakistani band to break into the Indian market. I just enjoyed the music, the stage and communicating with the audience. I never felt I owed something to the world or the world owed it back to me. It was a gift and given freely. We played the music and when the music is over you turn the lights off.