Sufi-Rock band Junoon are all set for their Azadi Tour at Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena on October 6. Known as the ‘U2 of South Asia,’ Junoon seamlessly blends arena rock with Sufi Muslim love poetry, having sold over 30 million albums worldwide. Their hits include Sayonee, Dum Mustt Qalandar and more. Having shared the stage with international artists like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Alicia Keys, the band is set to perform for the first time at Coca-Cola Arena.
We speak to the band that has been in business for over thirty years and discuss the secret to their longevity, and what fans can expect at the upcoming concert, produced by BookMyShow Live. Excerpts from the interview:
You’ve been together for a very long time. What’s the secret to your longevity?
In a sentence, the reason behind Junoon’s longevity is that we love what we do. Music is a gift and a reward in itself. Millions of people across the planet have made Junoon’s songs of love, heartbreak, attaining your goals, peace and friendship a daily musical soundtrack. As Paulo Coelho writes in his excellent book, The Alchemist, “When you follow your heart, the entire universe conspires to make you succeed.”
Junoon is not just a rock band, it’s a way of life. Music is the glue which keeps all of us together, enthusiastic and humble. It’s a rare gift to be able to play your songs across the planet to a loyal following, over three decades.
Tell us about your musical influences and how they have shaped your sound over the years.
Junoon’s musical tastes include a very wide range of very eclectic artists. Since Salman, Ali and Brian grew up in the West and the East, our listening reflects a cross cultural treasure of musical teachers and legendary artists.
Do you feel strongly about any recurring themes or messages in your music?
Junoon’s music takes you on a journey of ‘funna’ (mystical ecstasy), friendship, love, peace, justice and freedom. Junoon’s founder, Salman Ahmad has written an autobiography, Rock & Roll Jihad, published by Simon and Schuster. The story illuminates the unlikely trio of Ali Azmat from Lahore, and Brian O’ Connell from Rockland county, New York joining forces with Salman’s magical, mystical tour across the world. The music and the message comes from the ongoing travel, personal relationships, roller coaster ride of life, its highs and lows and most importantly trying not to feel like a victim but instead developing a winner’s mindset despite all the challenges and hardships that got thrown at us over the years we’ve stayed united and strong. There’s a special bond we have with our cross generational fans who follow us everywhere around the world including Dubai.
How would you describe your live performances? What can audiences expect when they see you play in Dubai later this year?
Junoon’s music acts as a love bridge between cultures and nations. Performing in front of a jam packed, multi-generational, ‘Junooni’ audience singing along to all the tunes is the greatest feeling in the world. The audience and Junoon become one. The purpose of life is to live a life of purpose. If music is your purpose, then do it with all your love, life and ‘junoon’! From Azadi, Sayonee, Khudi, Bulleya, and Dhamal Dum Mustt Qalandar to Papoo Yaar & Dosti, Junoon tries to create an atmosphere of infinite possibilities. There is no division, all colours bleed into one.
Surely you’ve created many memorable moments as a band. But what is that one moment that is dearest to all of you?
Winning the Best International Group award in New Delhi was pretty special. We beat Sting, Madonna, Prodigy and Backstreet Boys. But apart from the awards that Junoon has won over the years, the most memorable times have been meeting our fans, the ‘Junoonis’. There is a gift that is priceless: loyalty to our brand of music and to our message. That’s the greatest reward for any artist.
The rock music scene has evolved over the years. How do you see your band contributing to its continued growth and relevance?
There’s been dramatic change which has accelerated over the last two decades. When Junoon’s first album came out in 1991, there was no social media and no smartphones! But we’re going with the flow of life. Even in this new age of AI, it seems people still want authenticity, emotional uplift, transcendence and being part of something bigger than yourself. Music will never go out of fashion. As Plato said: Music is the sound of feelings.
What do you hope listeners take away from your music, and what kind of impact do you strive to make with your songs?
Positivity, hope and freedom. All that is possible if you can imagine it. Einstein once said logic only takes you from A to B but imagination takes you everywhere. That resonates very deeply with the ‘Junooni’ journey.
What is that one pre-show habit that nobody knows about?
We all gather in a quiet circle backstage and intone a prayer for collective success and harmony. And we munch on fruit, honey and lemon tea.
What is your take on social media and the importance of being actively involved on the platforms?
Use social media to celebrate life, spread light and seek truth. And don’t be a troll.