Skip to main content

Salman Ahmad and Brian O'Connell from the Pakistani band Junoon.

Guitarist Salman Ahmad (Sol-MAHN AH-MAHD) and bassist Brian O'Connell, from the Pakistani rock band Junoon (Ju-NOON). They are Pakistani's best-selling band, with four albums, and 2-million sales. They've gained an international following thanks to the Internet and MTV. The band also includes lead singer, Ali Azmat. The group is currently on tour.


Other segments from the episode on January 25, 1999

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, January 25, 1999: Interview with Salman Ahmad and Brian O'Connell; Review of Igor Stravinsky's albums "Stravinsky Conducts Stravinsky: The Mono Years" and "Stravinsky…


Date: JANUARY 25, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 012501np.217
Head: Salman Ahmad, Brian O'Connell
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:06

MARTY MOSS-COANE, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Marty Moss-Coane sitting in for Terry Gross.

Our guests today are musicians who sell millions of albums, though you've probably never heard of them. They're one of the top selling bands in South Asia and they're called Junoon. They live in Karachi, Pakistan and their music mixes the ancient with the modern; Sufi poetry and the spiritual form of singing called qawwali with the wailing guitar of American classic rock bands such as Led Zeppelin and Santana.

Because of the political content of some of Junoon's songs they're banned from performing in their home country of Pakistan. Terry Gross recorded an interview with two members of Junoon last October. Salman Ahmad writes the music for the group and Brian O'Connell is a transplanted New Yorker who plays bass.

Let's listen to something off their latest album, "Azadi." This is based on a Sufi poem called "Khudi."


(Lyrics unintelligible)

TERRY GROSS, HOST: Is pop music totally banned now in Pakistan?

SALMAN AHMAD, GUITARIST, SONGWRITER, JUNOON: Well, Terry, it may be wrong to say that pop music is banned. Junoon is banned. The way pop music is perceived by the establishment, it was, you know, non-political entertainment, you know. And what we did when we started the band back in '91, as our political awareness and consciousness grew, we started reflecting that in the lyrics of our songs.

And in the beginning since, you know, it was just a niche sort of a audience that we were playing for, it didn't seem to bother the establishment. But as the popularity grew and the influence grew over the people -- two years ago, I would say -- the establishment started taking very serious notice of our music.

And we wrote a song called "Accountability," which is about political corruption and made a video which kind of pokes fun at politicians. And that's when they started to sort of muzzle us. And now, we're completely banned.

GROSS: Was there like an official order that you got saying you weren't allowed to perform?

AHMAD: Well, the way they work over there is, you know, they're very devious in the sense that there is no written ban where Junoon is not allowed to play. It's just that the district administration refuses to give permissions for one reason or the other.

And on television they won't mention -- they won't even mention our name on television, yet there is no ban. I mean, if I wanted to take them to court -- the moment I take them to court they'll run a song and it fizzles out. So there's nothing written, yet they don't let you -- you're not allowed to play your music.

GROSS: Now, what about other pop music? Are there other rock or pop musicians that get played on radio or that appear on television?

AHMAD: Yeah, absolutely. Any pop music which is, you know, non-political -- the lyrical content is non-political -- you know sort of singing about teenage love songs and stuff, you know, it's fine. That's not so much of a problem because you have to understand the genesis of pop music in Pakistan.

Before 1988 we had 11 years of military rule under General Ziaul Haq, and during that time there was no youth entertainment whatsoever. No clubs. No music. I mean, the most innocent sort of gatherings of young people would be, you know, you'd have all the Islamic -- so-called Islamic parties coming in and breaking things and banning in the name of religion.

And I think the military ruler, Ziaul Haq, he manipulated that. He manipulated religion and Islam to just prolong his rule. So what happened was that from '77 to '88 people like me and other musicians -- I mean, we were, you know, totally suppressed -- we started playing music in our school. You know, just get guys together, and we played rock and roll, obviously, because it was the cool thing to do.

And we had black market cassettes we used to listen to of whatever the top 40 music was, and it -- we just started getting a following. I remember the first time we did a concert there were like -- it was six people, you know, just friends, and yet since there was no activity just the word of mouth -- sort of grew really rapidly.

And over -- between '83 and '88 you had a lot these sort of underground bands, but singing really sort of, you know, soppy sort of music, you know.

GROSS: Like what? Any American songs we'd know?

AHMAD: Oh, yeah. Bruce -- "Born in the USA."


GROSS: A song that had a lot of personal meaning to you, I'm sure.

AHMAD: So they actually -- I think it got under their -- back in '87 the big thing for Ziaul Haq was to promote Pakistan amongst the youth. So I was in a band called Vital Signs. And we couldn't -- we knew that our kind of music would never end up on television. There's no way. Because we used to wear jeans and, you know, just be normal. And they wanted Pakistani youth to represent a certain sort of look.

GROSS: What look?

AHMAD: You know, traditional Slarknese (ph) -- sort of, I think what they would say what a good Pakistani boy should be like, you know, no the tenants of Islam and nationalism -- very pro Pakistan. And you couldn't tolerate any dissent whatsoever. So this television producer, one day, came and -- he heard about us because we sort of were playing and young people were talking about us.

And he said, "You know, there's a song contest on television. And it's a national song contest, and I heard that you guys -- your music is good. And would you like to write a song?" And up until then we hadn't written any original songs, we were just doing covers -- English covers, you know.

And we sort of laughed at him and said, "Are you kidding? How could we be allowed on television?" He said, "No, look, it's a national song contest and it's a possibility the censors might overlook the fact that your appearance is not right because you're singing about the country."

So we said, "Yeah, what the hell," you know. And we wrote the song called "Dil Dil Pakistan," (ph) which means, you know, "We love Pakistan." And that's what happened, actually. There were about 20 songs from all over, you know, traditional -- which all had the same sentiment.

And the censors sort of overlooked it because they said it's all, you know, patriotic music. So that song got on television. And it was basically a rock beat, you now, pop oriented guitars, you know. And the song went on to -- because there was only one state channel -- that night people sat and they watched it. And there was about 50 million people who said and watched the song. And overnight -- I mean, it was like how the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan, you know?

GROSS: So you started to become known by writing this little patriotic song so that you could get on television, and then, what, later on you kind of switched and became much more critical in your lyrics and the government was offended?

AHMAD: Well, Terry, to be honest none of us looked upon music as being -- as a career, you know. I mean, I was studying to be a doctor. I was in medical college. The other guys were also, you know, looking at other careers because, traditionally, musicians are looked down upon in our society.

They are considered -- although there is supposed to be no class in Islam, but our culture traditionally has looked down upon people who play music for a living, you know. And -- so as long as it was a hobby, you know, it's all right. And that's how we were kind of fooling our parents and everyone: "It's just a hobby." We'll just do this for a little while and we'll get back to real life.

So, what happened was that this song, once it went on television -- I mean, it shocked us at the response we got from young people. And the establishment looked upon it and said, "Look, wait a minute. Let's not look down upon it because they're singing about patriotism, you know.

So they sort of didn't promote it, but they looked the other way, right. So in that time period what happened was that a year later Ziaul Haq's plane crash took place. He died. Which opened the way for democracy -- you know, for elections. That is when Benazir Bhutto came in to power.

And she was, we thought, a liberal Western-educated woman who would really be able to change -- turn things around. So the songs of that time, and because more and more pop music started getting on the waves then, right, reflected this sort of innocent idealism of young people. They want the country, you know, they love the country. But that sort of dream ended that same year basically because Benazir was as corrupt as Ziaul Haq.

GROSS: Now that your band, Junoon, is banned from performing in Pakistan and you can't get on radio or TV how do your listeners keep up with you? Is there a big black market for your records?

AHMAD: Well, no. I mean, we've actually -- what they tried to do -- the government is trying to do is starve us out. For the last five months, like I said, we haven't been able to play a single show. We don't make any money off album sales because piracy is 95 percent. We're off television.

So the -- what we did do, finally -- last month we got this later from the government saying that they invited us -- we were asked to appear at this hearing to answer charges against us on statements we made in India. Basically, you know, they were charges which amounted to treason.

So my whole thinking changed then. Up until now I was just -- like I said I'm a nonconfrontational person, I think. And I don't really like -- I don't want to be a hero. I don't want to become a martyr. But there's so much interference that you have to -- either you stand up to it or you get bulldozed.

So we started this public campaign which just attacked the government directly. They are the ones who are the hypocrites. They are the ones who are responsible for this economic catastrophe we're going through, yet they're calling us traitors, you know.

GROSS: So what's the government's reaction to your return of their volley?

AHMAD: They're a bit nonplused, actually. Because, you know, the first thing is an artist is viewed as a mouse, you know. As a prostitute, you know.

GROSS: Yeah, but if they view you as a little flea, what's the big deal if you sing songs against the government? I mean, if you're so unimportant -- really, and that raises a larger question. Why are they so threatened? Why is the government so threatened by rock and roll?

AHMAD: Because there's so much unrest in the country. There is so much unrest, and anything can incite the unrest. And you know from the experience of the '60s -- you know the anti-Vietnam protests -- that's what's happening in Pakistan now, 30 years later.

MOSS-COANE: Salman Ahmad, the founder of the band Junoon, speaking with Terry Gross. Junoon is based in Pakistan and is the most popular band in South Asia. We'll continue after this break.

This is FRESH AIR.


MOSS-COANE: Let's get back to Terry's interview with two of the members of the Pakistani band Junoon. Salman Ahmad is the founder and guitarist of the band. Brian O'Connell is the American bass player with the band. He now lives in Pakistan.

GROSS: I don't know whether it's because you've been banned in Pakistan that you've been performing in other countries. But I know you've been performing other countries, and you recently performed in India. And in fact you were performing in India during the period that the nuclear tests were taking place in India and Pakistan.

And it was a period of increasing tension between those two countries, and there's already plenty of tension between India and Pakistan. So, Salman what was it like for you as the leader of a Pakistani band to be in India as the tensions escalated during the nuclear tests?

AHMAD: Well, first of all, I mean, you know that before we went to India -- in my own lifetime I've seen two wars between our countries. And you read the papers in our country about this propaganda about what India is like, and it's bombarded at you. And so when we went in April I went there with a very open mind, you know, I just wanted to see you for myself what this place was like.

And it was really interesting because, you know, I saw a reflection of Pakistan and the Indians, you know, the Pakistanis and the Indians. And they, vice versa, you know. I mean it was uncanny that how similar, you know, cultural similarities -- apart from the majority of religion -- Hindu in India and Islam in Pakistan -- the music, the movies, the jokes everything. It is the same country which was cut in half.

So, I'd gone there not as a tourist but as an artist. And we happened to have the number one song in India at that time, so it was really funny. I mean, we were doing these concerts with 50,000-60,000 Indians coming, and supposedly there's supposed to be this nuclear euphoria in the country and all this anti-Pakistan feeling which was being projected on CNN, BBC -- it had nothing to do with reality, you see.

The man on the street couldn't have been bothered of what Pakistan and Pakistanis are like. Similarly, it's the same case in our country. The man in the street, you know, he loves watching Indian movies, loves listening to their music. It's both the governments trying to project the specter -- a threat -- to keep their own positions, you know.

GROSS: I want to introduce the bass player from Junoon, Brian O'Connell. Brian O'Connell, I know that you met Salman while you were both studying in New York. What made you decide to actually move to Pakistan and be in a band together based in Pakistan?

BRIAN O'CONNELL, BASS GUITARIST, JUNOON: Quite simply, after Salman and I parted ways in '81 -- he returned back to Pakistan and studied to become a doctor. I went upstate to become a music teacher. We kept in touch throughout that time, and he came back with this first Junoon album. He had done his national song with Vital Signs. He did their first album. And he decided that it really wasn't him -- this kind of bubble gum pop music that they were making.

So he wanted to take a risk, and he made a much more guitar oriented album. This was "Junoon One." When he completed that, he brought it back to me in New York and I listened to it. And I was amazed for a couple of different reasons.

First of all, I really liked it compositionally, and I really liked the idea that this was a brand new form of music for Pakistan. So it was more than just offering new music, it was a whole cultural alternative. And at that time, in '92, when Salman asked me to come over and help with the production of the second album "Talaash," it was an easy decision for me.

Because I was in a very routine, good, but mundane secure job up in Buffalo, New York. And I didn't have many other responsibilities besides that, so I figured a little vacation to see the other part of the world would be nice. So, I decided to stay on and really enjoyed touring and playing and recording with Junoon and just became a part of it then.

GROSS: How much music -- how much rock and roll or pop was there to listen to, Salman, when you were growing up in Pakistan?

AHMAD: Well, Terry, I was lucky. I mean, when I was in Pakistan I didn't hear a lot of it. I mean, a lot of the music I heard in Pakistan was traditional music: qawwali, Indian film music, dorozzil (ph), which is a harmonium based art form -- love poems. But I was lucky that my father was in the airlines -- moved to the states and I moved and went to high school here.

And, you know, with Brian being in high school, you know, I was just knocked out by just the amount of music that was available to young people, you know.

GROSS: So this was all new to you, this music.

AHMAD: It was unbelievable. I mean, in our high school we had about 10 bands, you know. And I saw all my sort of school friends playing music and I just felt so left out, you know. I mean, Brian was my sort of idle in a sense because, you know, he was playing guitar and all the girls use to be after him.

So I was -- initially, it was just a very innocent sort of interest in music. And once I -- I talked to my mother because I was afraid of bringing up the question of buying a musical instrument because it's just unheard of in our family. So I asked my mother and said, you know, "I'd like to learn the guitar."

And contrary to what I thought she would reply, she said, "OK, if you want to get one you have to go out and work for it," you know. So I bussed tables at a diner and got together about $235 -- went and got myself a Gibson Les Paul copy. And that's where my sort of interest in instruments started.

And then I started listening -- I was like crazy about it. I used to listen to Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, all of Brian's records, you know, of Southern rock. And I started imbibing all this information, you know. I mean, I was a complete junooni which means, obsessive, you know.

GROSS: Is that what it means?

AHMAD: Yeah. Junoon means obsession, you know.

GROSS: So then you went back to Pakistan and this music didn't really exist in any major way there yet.

AHMAD: Well, I'll tell you something very funny. My first year of medical college there was a talent show sort of for the first year class. And people were doing drama skits and telling jokes, and you had to get up and do something. So, they said, "Salman you know how to play the guitar so why don't you go up and do something."

So at that time, this was the '80s, Eddie Van Halen was the sort of rock guitar hero -- icon. So I went up and I played "Eruption," which was a very well known piece of his. And everyone started looking at me like: "What the hell is wrong with this guy?"

And I saw that movie "Back to the Future" in which Michael J. Fox goes up and plays that sort of guitar to the 1950s American audience, and I was like, you know. I put my guitar down for four years because I realized it has no relevance here, you know. And it's just that out of, like I said, the suppression of the military rule that you had to do something just to sort of stay normal.

MOSS-COANE: Salman Ahmad, the founder and guitarist of the Pakistani band Junoon; and Brian O'Connell, the American bass player with the band speaking with Terry Gross. Their new CD is called "Azadi." We'll continue this interview in the second half of the program.

I'm Marty Moss-Coane, and this is FRESH AIR.


MOSS-COANE: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Marty Moss-Coane sitting in for Terry Gross.

Last October, Terry recorded this interview with two members of the Pakistani band Junoon. Last year their hit song, "Sayonee" knocked Celine Dione out of the number one spot on MTV Asia. Because of their outspoken politics on and offstage, they are banned from performing or being played in their home country of Pakistan. Terry spoke with Salman Ahmad and expatriate Brian O'Connell.

GROSS: Tell me a little bit more about the musical styles that you've combined. You know, elements of American rock and also of traditional Pakistani music. Let's start with the elements of traditional Pakistani music that you've included. You say that some of the rhythms are almost trance-inducing, did you say?

AHMAD: Mmm-hmm. You see, there's a very very rich heritage of folk music in the subcontinent. The different provinces -- Punjab, Sindh, the frontier province -- they have their own sort of basic rhythms. And I find them very very fascinating, and I always used to think, you know, if you produce the sound -- brought it out to a more sort of -- create a bigger sound, and use rock music, you know, heavy guitars and bass and have these sort of soaring melody lines going in -- what it would sound like.

And that's what we've done, really. It's evolved, our sound, and I'm happy to say this last album, Junoon -- "Azadi" we got a friend of ours from New York, John Alec Roberson (ph), who I -- sort of, you know, we talked about this vision of trying to create a big sound with the traditional instruments and the traditional rhythms. And getting that trance-inducing thing.

GROSS: Brian, as the bass player with Junoon, I mean, you have to supply some of the rhythm. Have you had to learn rhythms that are very different from the rhythms you grew up with?

O'CONNELL: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. The rhythms that we grew up -- grow up with here in the States are very much straight forward. And that's what I found so appealing about the rhythms that we have in the subcontinent.

And the whole way a song is constructed -- it's very different. The melodies are far more intricate. Harmony is very much a Western thing. So the melodies, very meandering, and the rhythms are much more intense.

Now, me being a rhythm player -- that excited me a lot, and it gave me a lot of freedom on this album "Azadi" -- we just used the tabla and dolic (ph) and the bass guitar as rhythmic instruments. So it gave me a lot of freedom, and it was also quite a challenge to take everything I learned in my Western education, almost put that on the shelf a little bit, and just kind of find a different kind of freedom within this rhythm. It's been great.

GROSS: Could you maybe tap or clap out a rhythm that you often use?

O'CONNELL: Sure. I think a contrast from East to West is where in Western music you accent on the second and fourth beat like with a snare:


It's very rhythmic. Now, you take that same beat and over in the East that snare, that two and four happens a little bit earlier. So instead of:


It's now:


And as Salman would describe it, get your shoulders rolling a little bit more. It's kind of just anticipation of the beat. It rolls a little bit better.

AHMAD: It's interesting really, that the movement -- I find the East happens on the horizontal plane -- the axis of movement. It's like Brian was doing, like a shuffle almost. But a more flexible shuffle. It's going:


Whereas a boogie rhythm would go:


And it's vertical, you know. If you go to a rock concert here people will be going like this.

GROSS: Explain what you're doing. You're moving your head up and down.

AHMAD: Up and down, yeah. And where the rhythms that we play, and if you hear qawwali rhythms, it's all going like this, side to side. It's the shoulder movement happening, you know. It's really interesting to see that happen.

GROSS: Let's pause here. Salman, I'd like to ask you to introduce a track from your CD, "Azadi." And choose the most popular track. The track that was the biggest hit, and tell us a little bit about the song and what the lyric translates to in English.

AHMAD: OK. This is the opening track, and it's called "Sayonee." Which is a Punjabi term which means "my dear friend." And when -- back in May this became the number one song in India. And the words of it are: "There is no peace and there is no solution. Sayonee. Sayonee. Sayonee."

And I was wondering why is it that this song is resonating so deeply with both people in India and Pakistan. And that was the time of the nuclear blasts in both of the countries. And when we went to India we were just overwhelmed by just the spectrum of, you know, the song was playing in the rural areas. It was playing in sort of elitist areas and everybody just caught on to that the motion where, you know, "What's going to happen with us? And I think this song is about that question.

GROSS: What's happening musically in the song?

AHMAD: Again, it's got a -- what they call a tamal (ph) beat. Which is this:


Right. A regular Punjabi beat, but what's different about it is that Brian is playing a bass figure which is completely different to the beat. He's going:


A lot like the big band sort of music.


And if you get that Punjabi beat going with that shuffle.


It makes for a very interesting groove. Which we'll let you hear now.

GROSS: Right.

O'CONNELL: It's like Benny Goodman or Artie Shaw meeting Masir Fatelli Hahn (ph).

GROSS: And this is Junoon.


(Lyrics unintelligible)

GROSS: That's music from the Junoon album "Azadi." Junoon is the most popular rock band in South Asia. They're based in Pakistan. My guests are the band's founder Salman Ahmad, he's also the guitarist and songwriter with the group. And also with me is Brian O'Connell who plays bass, and he's from America although he now lives in Pakistan.

I'm wondering if MTV has changed the pop music scene a lot in South Asia because there is a South Asian MTV. So even if the state-sponsored television station refuses to play pop music or certain bands, you know, South Asia MTV is there.

O'CONNELL: Well, this is precisely what happened with one of our videos.

GROSS: Yeah?

O'CONNELL: Yeah, they wouldn't show it on the local state-run TV, but everyone has a satellite dish now so they're opened up to the rest of the world. And when they saw our video "Sayonee" a few times a day -- and the number one slot on MTV and Channel V it got into their homes anyway.

So by being banned from local television, local airwaves we still climbed up the chart and maintained our number one popularity position. Rather ironic. Much to the dismay of the people who are trying to prevent that.

AHMAD: That's a very interesting point. The biggest revolution that's taking place in the last seven or eight years has been satellite television, because traditionally -- I mean, 10 years ago we had one state channel and that was projecting what...

GROSS:'s totally controlled.

AHMAD: Yeah, totally controlled. The moment satellite television came, people had access to all kinds of information. That's why the cynicism that's there now has grown because people know what's happening in the west of the world. As opposed to what the government sort of projects.

And I think one of the reasons why we're band is because the government is losing control. They fear of losing control over young people.

MOSS-COANE: Salman Ahmad, the founder of the band Junoon, speaking with Terry Gross. Junoon is based in Pakistan, and we'll continue after this break.

This is FRESH AIR.


MOSS-COANE: Let's get back to Terry's interview with two of the members of the Pakistani band Junoon. Salman Ahmad is the founder and the guitarist of the band. Brian O'Connell is the American bass player with the band.

GROSS: I was reading a few articles about the band and one of the articles described how you were playing a concert, and I forget if this was in India or in Pakistan -- it must have been in India. And they said that it was in a fairly conservative town and there were a lot of girls in the audience -- teenagers -- who were dressed in veils.

And they threw off the fails during the concert, in a kind of symbolic way. In other words they were also throwing off certain fundamentalist traditions as well -- or certain traditions. And so I'm wondering if there have in fact been concerts like that. And if so, what it says to you.

AHMAD: Well, absolutely. You see, the great common denominator between rock music and qawwali is this sort of communal feeling, you know. Like if you go to a rock concert people, you know, they move as one. And it breaks down barriers. It's very liberating -- rock music.

And qawwali, the poetry, it's about the celebration of the self. About love for God, and that repetitious beat, you know, the tabla beat -- which Masir Fatelli Hahn I think was one of the greatest exponent of -- it's also liberating. And what we've done -- tried to do -- is to sort of blend elements of rock music, Sufi poetry -- the rhythms that we use are very trance-inducing rhythms. And they make you let go.

For people who have been suppressed and inhibited, and we've gone to rural towns, young girls, boys they just let themselves go. And it's a really satisfying feeling to just let people, you know, allow themselves to release their inhibitions, you know.

The funny thing is that, unlike a lot of rock concerts here where there's a feeling -- aggressive feeling -- you know, a lot of times people get aggressive, our music is not about aggression and violence, you know. It just sort of lets you loose and just get into the spirituality of the message.

GROSS: I know you're banned from performing in Pakistan, but do you ever play secretly?

AHMAD: Well, yeah. I mean, we're going to do it on the 30th.

O'CONNELL: I guess it's not a secret then.


GROSS: Not a big secret.

AHMAD: It's a fundraiser in somebody's home. We're doing that. They wanted -- there's this nongovernment organization which wants to raise funds for, I think, it's cancer research. So they're not publicizing it. They're selling tickets secretly. And we're going to a house and play.

GROSS: And what happens when it's not a secret anymore?

AHMAD: You see, I'll tell you, I wouldn't mind being arrested, you know. I mean, what I would like to do -- I want to confront the government that, you know, if they are accusing us of treason then they should take us to court. Why is it that this brow beating -- it's -- we live in a democracy and they should confront us directly.

So I think we will be holding concerts publicly, and if they stop us then we'll see what happens next.

GROSS: Brian, do you feel the same way, you wouldn't mind going to prison?

O'CONNELL: For me it's a little bit of a different thing. Now, I don't agree with the politics in Pakistan and I choose to stay a little bit further away from it because -- yeah, I just don't believe in it that strongly. Until we can get a good leader in and what not -- no, I don't.

GROSS: So you don't want to go to prison but you're putting yourself...

O'CONNELL: ...I wouldn't -- I think by putting -- by doing what we're doing I think we're taking risks anyway. But, no, I have no intentions of winding up in jail in Pakistan.

GROSS: So you don't think that this "secret concert" is a big risk for you?

O'CONNELL: I don't think so. No, I really don't.

AHMAD: The other thing is that they don't find -- although Brian is a member of the band he is not a problem for them. We are.

GROSS: Right. Because you are Pakistani.

AHMAD: Yeah.

GROSS: Right.

AHMAD: I mean, when we went to this hearing -- it was the lead vocalist Ali and myself who were...

O'CONNELL: ...they really think I'm a spy for the CIA, so maybe they're a little afraid.

AHMAD: Don't give them any ideas.

O'CONNELL: What's wrong with that. They think that. They think a lot of crazy things over there.

GROSS: Salman, I'd like you to choose a track from your CD that you would like us to close with, and to tell us a little bit about the song, composing it, and what the lyrics mean.

AHMAD: Oh, OK. You've got the CD right in front of you. This is the second track on the album and it's called "Meri Awaaz Suno," which means "hear me -- hear my voice." And the song means a lot to me because it's about freedom. It's about -- the lines go "Hear me. Free me. Give me justice."

And it's the soul crying out for -- the shackled soul crying out for freedom. And I can relate to it personally and I think a lot of people in India and Pakistan -- that feeling resonates with them then, you know. And songs, what they do is, they articulate feelings which you can't really say. And that's what the song is about.

The other interesting thing I can tell you about it is that I was -- my inspiration for guitar was Led Zeppelin's guitar player Jimmy Page. And you hear a lot of the Punjabi rhythms juxtaposed with, I think, a little bit of Led Zeppelin in there.


GROSS: OK. Well, I want to thank you both very much. And I wish you very good luck.

O'CONNELL: Thank you for having us.


(Lyrics unintelligible)

MOSS-COANE: Salman Ahmad, the founder and guitarist of the Pakistani band Junoon; and Brian O'Connell, the American bass player with the band spoke with Terry Gross. Their latest CD is, "Azadi."

This is FRESH AIR.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.


Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia, PA
Guest: Salman Ahmad, Brian O'Connell
High: Guitarist Salman Ahmad and bassist Brian O'Connell from the Pakistani rock band Junoon. They are Pakistan's best-selling band with four albums and two million sales. They've gained an international following thanks to the Internet and MTV. The band also includes lead singer Ali Azmat. The group is currently on tour.
Spec: Entertainment; Music Industry; Lifestyle; Culture; Junoon

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Salman Ahmad, Brian O'Connell

Date: JANUARY 25, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 012502NP.217
Head: Lloyd Schwartz
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:52

MARTY MOSS-COANE, HOST: Igor Stravinsky is nearly everyone's favorite 20th-century composer. Classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz says the 20th-century wouldn't be the same if it weren't for Stravinsky. Several classic recordings of Stravinsky conducting his own music have been reissued and Lloyd has a review.


LLOYD SCHWARTZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC CRITIC: Stravinsky, like Picasso, is one of the artists who defines the 20th-century. He made incisive, shifting rhythms and unexpected harmonies a central part of a new musical vocabulary.

He preached detachment and hated sentimentality and moralizing. His delicious polytonalities still make some conservatives nervous. Yet his scores are vibrantly colorful and unforgettably tuneful.

Mozart may be the only composer who gives me more sheer sensuous pleasure. And along with Mozart, Stravinsky is the composer I most enjoy returning to.


SCHWARTZ: That was Stravinsky himself conducting the witty, ceremonial opening of "Pulcinella" from a recording he made with the Cleveland Orchestra 45 years ago. The extensive Stravinsky discography on Columbia Records is one of the most important documents in the history of recorded sound.

Yet most of his mono recordings from the 1940s and '50s with the New York Philharmonic, then called the Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, and the Cleveland Orchestra have been out of print for decades. Now, Sony's spectacular Masterworks Heritage series has issued a two CD set called "Stravinsky Conducts Stravinsky: The Mono Years," which includes some of Stravinsky's best performances.

One disc includes the contents of my own most cherished Stravinsky LP. The scintillating "Octet for Winds" with the New York Phils Julius Baker on flute and some amazing trombone playing. And the brilliantly sinister suite from "The Soldier's Tale."


SCHWARTZ: The British label, Pearl has issued other Stravinsky recordings with the New York Philharmonic. A devastating "Rite of Spring," Stravinsky's own oddly abbreviated suites from "Petrouchka" and "The Firebird," and the postwar "Symphony in Three Movements," recorded right after its world premiere.

In 1907, "The Brief Pastoral" was a wordless piece for soprano. Stravinsky transcribed it half a century later for Small Chamber Group. The players here include the century's greatest violinist, Joseph Segetti (ph) and a talented young oboist named Mitchell Miller, who achieved greater fame when he invited audiences to sing along with another kind of music.


SCHWARTZ: These two sets of Stravinsky conducting Stravinsky are among the greatest recordings ever made of 20th-century music. I hope their release means his other legendary recordings from this period will once again see the light of day. Maybe even before the 20th century is over.

MOSS-COANE: Lloyd Schwartz is classical music editor of the "Boston Phoenix." He reviewed "Stravinsky Conducts Stravinsky: The Mono Years" on Sony, and "Stravinsky Conducts Stravinsky: The American Recordings" on Pearl.

For Terry Gross, I'm Marty Moss-Coane.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.


Dateline: Marty Moss-Coane, Philadelphia, PA
Guest: Lloyd Schwartz
High: Classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz reviews two new reissues of composer Igor Stravinsky conducting his own music. "Stravinsky Conducts Stravinsky: The Mono Years" and "Stravinsky Conducts Stravinsky: The American Recordings."
Spec: Entertainment; Music Industry; Lifestyle; Culture; Igor Stravinsky; Lloyd Schwartz

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Lloyd Schwartz
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

You May Also like

Did you know you can create a shareable playlist?


Recently on Fresh Air Available to Play on NPR


Daughter of Warhol star looks back on a bohemian childhood in the Chelsea Hotel

Alexandra Auder's mother, Viva, was one of Andy Warhol's muses. Growing up in Warhol's orbit meant Auder's childhood was an unusual one. For several years, Viva, Auder and Auder's younger half-sister, Gaby Hoffmann, lived in the Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan. It was was famous for having been home to Leonard Cohen, Dylan Thomas, Virgil Thomson, and Bob Dylan, among others.


This fake 'Jury Duty' really put James Marsden's improv chops on trial

In the series Jury Duty, a solar contractor named Ronald Gladden has agreed to participate in what he believes is a documentary about the experience of being a juror--but what Ronald doesn't know is that the whole thing is fake.


This Romanian film about immigration and vanishing jobs hits close to home

R.M.N. is based on an actual 2020 event in Ditrău, Romania, where 1,800 villagers voted to expel three Sri Lankans who worked at their local bakery.

There are more than 22,000 Fresh Air segments.

Let us help you find exactly what you want to hear.
Just play me something
Your Queue

Would you like to make a playlist based on your queue?

Generate & Share View/Edit Your Queue