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Salman Ahmad performing in New York
|Birth name||Salman Ahmad|
December 12, 1963 |
|Genres||Rock, Metal and Sufi|
|Occupations||Guitarist, activist, professor|
|Instruments||Fender Stratocaster, Keyboard, Electric acoustic guitar, Double neck guitar|
|Years active||1986 - Present|
|Labels||Coke Studio, EMI Records, PTV Studios, Studio 146|
|Associated acts||Vital Signs, Junoon|
|Fender Stratocaster, Gibson EDS-1275|
He earned nation wide popularity in 1986 for his unique style of neoclassical playing in metal. An early guitarist of the Vital Signs, he formed Junoon (lit. Obsession) in 1990 with American Bassist Brian O'Connell and pioneered the Sufi influenced metal-rock music in Pakistan. He started his activism in mid-1990s and has been involved in two BBC documentaries concerning the issues in Pakistan such as society, education, religion and science. He has served as the UN Goodwill Ambassador for HIV/AIDS Programme towards spreading awareness about HIV in South Asia. While working with the Pakistan's media to help initiate peace between India and Pakistan, Ahmad continues to produce documentaries and solo guitar albums. At present, he is serving tenured professor at the Queens College of the City University of New York. Although, with Junoon being disintegrated, Salman Ahmad continues to perform as a solo artist under the "Junoon" label and has moved to New York and released one album as a solo artist, "Infiniti" in 2005.
Ahmad started his music career with Vital Signs, but left after their debut album due to creative differences. In 1990, Ahmad formed Junoon, South Asia's biggest and longest-lasting rock band, along with Ali Azmat. After Junoon's international acclaim and success, Ahmad reached new heights, which included being an ambassador for peace with numerous international awards under his belt.Now he make a new song for "Pakistan" with the title of "Naya Pakistan"
Ahmad released his first solo album, Infiniti, in mid-2005, but contrary to rumors, he did not dissolve Junoon. The first video for Infiniti was "Al-Vida", which aimed to promote HIV awareness, and featured famous Pakistani actress Nadia Jamil playing the role of a woman whose husband dies of AIDS; Jamil's character goes on to educate street people about preventing the disease.
He also played an important role in raising funds and awareness for the massive earthquake that hit Pakistan in October, 2005. In September 2006, Ahmad was personally invited by former US President Bill Clinton to speak at the Clinton Global Initiative panel in New York on September 21, which featured many other prominent guests such as Bill Gates, Pervez Musharraf, Queen Rania, and others.
Ahmad also appeared on Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect, the PBS documentary The Rock Star and The Mullahs, and the BBC documentary It's My Country Too. He also appeared on CNN and NPR to speak on behalf of Pakistanis and Muslims.
In an interview with ARY One World in 2007, Ahmad said he would be working with Madonna and Bono. He has been touring actively, performing and speaking at prestigious U.S. institutions such as Columbia University, Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Purdue, Stanford, MIT, and UT Austin.
He has also been teaching a class on music titled "Islamic Music and Culture of South Asia", as a guest faculty at Queens College. This year, he started his second semester as a guest faculty. Ahmad also worked with Annie Lennox, Sarah McLachlan and Dave Stewart to record a song for 'Green Peace', which was produced and mixed by Junoon's producer John Alec.
Ahmad performed at the Cherry Blossom Festival on April 6, 2008 in Washington DC. He also performed in Toronto on November 4, 2008 at Roy Thomson Hall as part of the sold-out 'A Mystical Journey concert'. With stops in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Montreal, and featuring 60 musicians and dancers from various parts of the Muslim world, the concert marked the Golden Jubilee initiative of His Highness Prince Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims.
On December 10, 2007 Ahmed and Indian tabla maestro Samir Chatterjee performed together at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo City Hall in the honour of the former American vice president Al Gore and the United Nations Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) who were the winners of the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize for the year 2007.
On March 1, 2008, Ahmad performed with Yale Strom (a world leading Klezmer artist) at Temple Beth Sholom in Roslyn Heights as part of another "Common Chords II" concert celebrating Muslim and Jewish Music. Together with Strom, Ahmad leads the multi-faith ensemble Common Chords, whose members include Chatterjee, dhol player Sunny Jain, bassist Mark Dresser, vocalist Elizabeth Schwartz and others He also performed with Oscar and multi Grammy award winner Melissa Etheridge, with whom he recorded a duet called "Ring the Bells". Etheridge hoped to present this track to President-elect Barack Obama. They also performed at Etheridge's album release concerts in New Jersey and Atlantic City in November 2008.
About these performances, Ahmad said; “I dedicate these performances to the Pakistan lawyers movement for the restoration of the Supreme Court judges and independence of the judiciary as well as Pakistan's civil society, media, students and rights activists who have heroically protested against the Musharraf government's illegal action of imposing emergency in Pakistan.”
Ahmad and his band Junoon suffered political censorship in Pakistan during the rule of Benazir Bhutto in 1990s, partly due to a song denouncing political corruption. In 1998 during the rule of Nawaz Sharif, Junoon was again banned in Pakistan, because they protested against the nuclear power tests in India as well as their own country by saying, "Why escalate the arms race when people still need water? Why see our neighbors as enemies when we are so close to each other?"
Ahmed played at the Roskilde Festival in 2000 under the banner of Freemuse, just a couple of years after the ban. As a musician who faced censorship in his home country, Ahmed says that "there is no conflict between my faith and my music, you can be a Muslim and play electric guitar".
In 2006, During a Freemuse conference in Beirut he was part of one of the rare occasions where music and religion was taken seriously and where discussions on music and Islam focused on theology and not just social and cultural patterns. About this he said, "I’ve taken part in Freemuse dialogue meetings and press meetings. They have always been great meetings places for musicians, researchers and journalists and I’ve always felt that understanding the motivations behind and the mechanisms of censorship have been in focus — not just condemning censorship. Having said that, we, the artists, should always be ready to defend our colleagues when the rights to freedom of expression are attacked, and thus we need an organisation such as Freemuse to help us do this."
Nobel Peace Prize concert in Norway
Televised in around 100 countries, Ahmad and his band Junoon performed with artists from all over the world at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway, on 11 December 2007. He also played at the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony on 9 December 2007, where he was joined by tabla virtuoso Pandit Samir Chatterjee.
Salman Ahmad published an autobiographical work titled "Rock & Roll Jihad: A Muslim Rock Star's Revolution" in January 2010. The book was published by Simon & Schuster. Melissa Etheridge wrote in the introduction " "The story you are about to read is the story of a light-bringer....Salman Ahmad inspires me to reach always for the greatest heights and never to fear....Know that his story is a part of our history."
Ahmad has also acted in a few television dramas.
Salman Ahmad has been often seen at Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf's (Pakistan Justice Party) rallies which is founded by cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan. Salman Ahmad sings patriotic and revolutionary songs in these rallies which revitalizes the whole environment, he is often alleged as being a member of the party as well.
- CUNY website article about Salman Ahmed
- "Temple Beth Sholom - Rosyln Heights, NY". Tbsroslyn.org. Retrieved 2012-11-10.
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- "Human Rights for Musicians – Impressions & Descriptions: Salman Ahmad". Freemuse. Retrieved 2012-11-10.
- "Ambassador' plays Nobel Peace Prize concert". Freemuse. Retrieved 2012-11-10.
- New York Concert for Swat Refugees
- "Music concert in aid of Swat affectees held at UN". The Nation. 2009-09-14. Retrieved 2012-11-10.
- Junoon's Official Website and Salman's Tour Roster
- When the rock star met the mullah
- Salman's Profile on the Clinton Global Initiative
- Nobel Peace prize ceremony Salman Ahmed performance
- Washington Post interview with Salman Ahmad