The biggest rock band in South Asia is back with a vengeance. The world's pioneer of Sufi-Rock, Junoon is poised to dominate 1999 with their upcoming album "Parvaaz".
Just as "Azadi" stole the Subcontinent’s stage last year, Junoon has dedicated
"Parvaaz" to the great Sufi poet Baba Bulleh Shah, who lived in Kasur in
the 17th century. The album draws heavily on Bulleh Shah for its lyrical
inspiration. Three songs particularly stand out due to Salman Ahmad’s use of the Sufiyana Kalaam of Bulleh Shah: "Bulleya" (which is also the first single
and video from the album), "Ab to Jaag" and "Aleph".
"Bulleya" symbolises man’s quest for himself. The three hundred year old
message is not lost in our 21st century world:
Neither Moses nor Pharaoh,
Never have I desired to blaspheme.
Neither Saint Nor Sinner,
Oh Bulleh, Who knows who I am?
Asim Raza has been chosen to direct the video for "Bulleya" which will be shot on location in Bahawalpur.
Musically, "Parvaaz" has taken Junoon’s sound light-years into the future. Just as lyrically Junoon delves towards tradition, sonically the album is truly for the Millennium. No one has ever heard anything like the "other-worldly" rhythms produced by the fusion of Dholak and Drums which evokes a multicultural, hybridised pop sound straight out of the future. Much of this is due to the talents of John-Alec, Junoon’s producer who, as in "Azadi", flew in from New York to work his magic on "Parvaaz". "We were more efficient in recording ‘Parvaaz’, as compared to ‘Azadi’. Junoon has become more professional in the studio, and there were fewer blackouts as well, in Lahore!", says John-Alec. Salman Ahmad’s visionary arrangements catapult him into a new league from guitarist and songwriter/composer to master arranger. "I heard a really big sound in my head for ‘Parvaaz’", says Salman. "John, Brian and I really worked well together to achieve the sonic picture. I think we have been 80% successful in capturing it this time in the studio, which is the closest we've ever been".
The album was recorded over 4 weeks in Lahore, and mastered at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London. No wonder then that it is Junoon’s most mature sounding work to date. Ali Azmat’s vocals are more polished, Brian O’Connell’s bass lines more thoughtfully composed, and Salman’s guitar most frenetic than ever before. "Parvaaz" also includes Ali Azmat writing, on the instantly listen-able "Sajna". "On ‘Sajna’ I was trying to get a completely new sound, something far removed from anything Junoon has done in the past. Recording ‘Parvaaz' was close to a spiritual experience for me; emotions ran very high, as we tried our best to get the perfect sound onto tape".
Brian again involved himself in the production as well as his original and unique bass lines: "I love the super-impositions of the rhythms we have used, bringing the bass guitar and dhol together. We worked professionally and diligently in the studio, which came easy because we were so close to the project", says Brian.
Junoon’s turbulent recent past, charged with everything from being "Sufi
Rock" to traitors has left an indelible impression on the group. "We
went through heaven & hell in 1998. Our achievements from the Zee Cine
Awards to the Channel [V] Music Awards were juxtaposed with the bans and
media campaigns against us. But we are all the better for it", says
Brian. You can clearly hear the impact of the events Junoon has been
through on "Parvaaz"; for example lyrically in songs such as "Mitti":
We will all fall to dust one day,
Don’t ever forget.
Upon our departure,
There will be no return.
It is in such deep messages as this one that Junoon shows how they have managed to deal with the petty squabbles that politicians, critics, and nay-sayers have continually tried to drag them down into. Not only has the resilient group persevered and risen above the challenges that they have faced, they are flying!