Salman’s Solo Junooni Journey “Infiniti”
By Ras H. Siddiqui

Whenever one has the opportunity to listen to new music from Junoon and now from solo “Junooni” Salman Ahmad, expectations should remain high. Known on occasions as “The U2 of Pakistan” and “The Biggest Band in Asia” or “Sufi Rockers,” Ali Azmat, Brian O’Connell and Salman have ruled the hearts and charts of Pop/Rock in Pakistan for quite a long time, even before the phasing out of the other famous band that Salman started with - the Vital Signs. And now since Junoon are the veterans of Pakistani popular music it was only natural that Ali Azmat would launch his solo effort called “Social Circus” and Salman would not remain far behind with this “Infiniti” CD (under the Junooni label) being reviewed here.
One had to have mixed feelings while pushing “Infiniti” into the CD player. The thought of Salman Ahmad singing was not exactly without its reservations. He is generally known as a serious guitarist/musician and one who espouses social causes not pursued by run of the mill Pakistanis (such as AIDS awareness). He is also a peacenik as Junoon members were years ahead of their time in supporting India-Pakistan peace. But what about Salman as a singer? We just have to approach Infiniti with an open mind.
The first track “Nachoon gi” (I want to dance) appears to be a tribute to Punjabi poet Baba Bulleh Shah and Saints Baba Farid plus Shah Hussain. It is quite listen-able but does not strike one as a unique Sufi Rock effort. The music is haunting but aside from the chants is too Western for its Eastern theme. It is more of a leading mood creator here in Infiniti that encourages one to continue listening.
Second Track “Al-Vida” (Good Bye) is what separates Salman and Junoon from the rest of Pakistani entertainers. Written after his meeting with a brave HIV positive woman in Pakistan who lost her husband to AIDS, the song is all about an early goodbye in life due to this dreaded disease. It spreads awareness about AIDS without diminishing the integrity of the people involved. Here, Salman is as always different from us the generally insensitive oafs that Pakistani males are known as (by Pakistani females? I am kidding here right?). But seriously credit has to be given where it is due and it is certainly due here. Al-Vida is a nice ballad that touches a very crucial subject that we often tend to ignore. No wonder Salman has been appointed as AIDS ambassador by the United Nations recently and not just for Pakistan!
Track three or “Ghoom Tana” is possibly about visions of India-Pakistan peace which still need to cross many hurdles. Inspired by his visit to Patiala in India, an area that he has developed quite an attraction to since his family moved from there, Salman is assisted by Indian actor Naseer-ud-din Shah, actress Nandita Dass and singer Shubha Mugdal (I saw the video version on the Junoon website). The song alludes to the painful memories which could benefit from healing today. “Baree dur hai abhi jaana, mayoos na kabhi hona, andheray mein bhi, veeranay mein bhi, khilay gi koi… kali” (Translation “We still have far to go, but do not be dejected, in the darkness and the wilderness, a flower bud will still blossom”). In the India-Pakistan context all one can say is a hopeful “Amen”.
Track 4 “Nazar” (the gaze) is a song about relationships which aspires to explain breakups and trying to get back together. Track 5 “Mein tum sey door hoon” (So far from you) continues the theme of relationships and longing. It is well put together and will certainly win some more fans within Pakistani girl power. It has some great guitar work to back up its sentiments.
And that brings us to Track 6 or “Tu Lung Ja” (You go ahead?), which in my humble and biased opinion is the best in “Infiniti.” Tu lung ja saddee khair ai, sajna tu lung ja” (Go ahead, I will be fine love, you go on ahead?). Punjabis across the world and across the India-Pakistan border will surely love this song because it incorporates the best of Bhangra and fuses it with some Western influences. I have to admit that I was already impressed with the beat and the dancing potential of Tu Lung Ja long before understanding what it meant. For translation, I had to turn to Mrs. Siddiqui who is a Lahori and does understand Punjabi as opposed to the many Karachi origin fans of Junoon like myself.
Track 7 “Terey Liyey” (For you) is vintage Led Zeppelin. For those not familiar with Salman Ahmad’s music, he is a long-time Zeppelin fan and does not hide it. He spent a number of his formative years in New York and has returned now to this city that he considers his second home. Zeppelin inspired Heavy Metal Rock played along with and Urdu lyrics is certainly a usual experience but it does work here.
Track 8 “Do Dil” (Two Hearts) is somewhat melancholic and the next number Track 9 “Tanha” (Alone) incorporates heavy metal quite well and can generate some dance enthusiasm. Zeppelin, Jimmy Hendrix and possibly even U2 come to mind after listening to this tune.
And this brings us to “Sagar” (Ocean) on Track 10, the best combination of East and West that Salman has generated in this CD. “Sagar” starts off with a reference to Pathanay Khan. This song has it all and becomes my personal favorite in Infiniti. Both the music and lyrics produce quite a pleasing feeling here.
Track 11, “Mun gum sum Maula” (Lost in You God) is another combination experiment that works, while its spiritual seriousness is not lost to the listener. Sufi Rock is well represented here.
The Punjabi words of Baba Bulleh Shah alone in “Masjid Mandir” (Mosque, Temple) in Track 12 provided much food for thought. The only objection that I have with this track is with its short length because it had the potential to surpass both Tu Lung Ja and Sagar as the best that this collection has to offer. Translated (I will not attempt to quote the Punjabi here) it says: “Take down the Mosque. Take down the Temple. Take down anything that will fall. But please don’t demolish a single human heart, because that is where God really resides.” Beautiful music here Salman! And after this Track 13 or a Ghoom tana (remix) seemed too tame an ending but it still generates notice.
In conclusion “Infiniti” does lack powerful vocals but Salman still pulls off quite a victory by putting a solid musical foot forward. It has a little bit of everything for the fans of Junoon and more. This CD was a pleasant surprise. The rest one will leave up to the younger generation of music listeners. Tu Lung Ja!
(This CD is only available online at the moment at http://www.junoon.com/ or by contacting erfan@omnimuzik.com .
Junoon will headline the Pakistan Day entertainment segment on Saturday, August 6, 2005 in Los Angeles at the L.A. Coliseum along with Habib and Nadeem Wali Muhammad and Juggy D.)

 

 

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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