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Junoon Rocks San Jose California
Ras H. Siddiqui
(A Pakistani-American writer and journalist based in California) 

May 2002    Junoon, the biggest musical act to come out of Pakistan these days rocked the Civic Auditorium in Downtown San Jose, California on Sunday May 12, 2002 with an intensity rarely witnessed ( but not necessarily universally appreciated ) as a colorful array of  their fans called “Junoonis” took over the show very early on.  So as Ali Azmat, Brian O'Connell and Salman Ahmad had another chance to visit us here in Northern California thanks to Shiraz Jiwani of the Naz8 Cinemas (helped by G1G Insurance, Mehta Brothers and the Pakistan Link), I could not help remembering a young band struggling to make a name for themselves and their two performances at San Jose State University during the 1990’s.  And one is glad to report that they have succeeded beyond many expectations and that their “Daur-e-Junoon” tour of the United States has been a successful one.

The show was slated to start at 6:30 PM as this was a Sunday and “Mother’s Day” here in the US, but it actually started a little past 8. Promoter Shiraz Jiwani’s father had recently passed away so Junoon appropriately started the show with “Mitti main mil Jayain Gai” in tribute. And that unfortunately was the only song that people who paid $100 and $50 for their tickets could have enjoyed because as their second song “Zamanay Kay Andaaz” was played, the young Junooni boys and might I add very aggressive girls mobbed the front.  What I witnessed of Pakistan “girl power” this evening was indeed unique. But honestly if the 200 or so young Junoonis had not attached themselves to the front, many other people who came with their families could have enjoyed the show a lot more. And Ali Azmat did not help matters by saying that this was usual at Rock Concerts and that “we will take the responsibility”. Because after paying top dollar and only being able to see someone’s behind wrapped in a T- Shirt that said “Miami Beach” was not

our idea of a fun evening. And things got so bad that even attempts to take photographs became too risky. And in this I can only blame the enthusiasm of our youngsters and feel sorry for the promoter who had to field a lot of complaints from irate parents.

  “Yeh Dosti”, their next number went off well and Allama Iqbal’s “Khudi ko kar Buland Itna” really charged things up more (if that was possible). “Mera Mahi” a personal favorite and Khuwaab were received well and my wife and I had to move from our chairs during “Sayonee” because by that time the young Junoonis had begun standing on the chairs in front of us and started dancing. In particular, a young lady who was using her very long hair, twirling it like a cowboy’s rope really had our attention for a while.

 “Yaar Bina “ and the instrumental that followed were superb. Another family favorite “Saieen” was well done as were “Neend Ati Nahin” and the amazing “Sajna”. “Chal Kuryay”, “Dharti Kay Khuda” and “Mast Qalandar” and “Husn Walon” were followed by the song that most of us “old folks” came to hear and see in performance. That being Jazba-e-Junoon, probably by now a signature song for the band and for the country of Pakistan. And the heavy metal version of the National Anthem of Pakistan was the icing on the cake for all from the Pakistani-American Community who had traveled from as far away as Reno, Nevada to see this Band perform. This musical tribute to Pakistan is always touching and that is the kind of  entertainment that this reporter tries not to miss. The Encore presentation of  “Heeray” closed the show.

 Ali especially and Brian to a certain extent made it a point to be accessible Backstage after the show, but Salman whom I had a chance to briefly meet before the show began, could not be reached again. And since the next morning was a working day and our kids had to go to school too, my wife and I decided to leave as soon as we could. Our thanks to Zain and Monis for helping us to meet the band.

 Now to the conclusion of this hurriedly written report. Let me add that Junoon without Junoonis is a “must-see” act. But because the young Junoonis took over the show after the first song, I cannot give this performance a glowing review.  But then again some may ask, what is a Junoon show without their very enthusiastic and devoted Junooni fans?  I for one just wish that these young fans could have contained their enthusiasm till the latter part of the show. That way a lot more people would have enjoyed it. And in any case when you have a large group of young people in this country waving the Green and White colors of Pakistan and feeling a “pride of ownership” of sorts regarding Junoon, it makes even older people like myself quite happy. And as my dear friend whom I will not name here said to me at the show: “Pakistan has two things currently going for it in America today. General Pervez Musharraf and Junoon.” I may add that there are a few others too but as far as the media here is concerned, truer words of wisdom may seldom have been spoken.  

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