After a string of discomfiting reports regarding their performance at other venues in Dubai, the Sufi rock band Junoon finally performed to a jam-packed audience at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium on Friday night.
Not surprisingly ‘Junoon Reloaded’, organised by Oberoi Middle East Events, lived up to its reputation. The famed band was at once spectacularly surreal and fantastically eclectic.
Led by its founder, guitarist and songwriter Salman Ahmad, vocalist Ali Azmat and bassist Brian O’Connell, Junoon wasted no time to sweep their fans off their feet (some of whom had queued up hours ahead) with what has become their USP over the years — no cloying crowd-engagement gimmicks — just the sheer power of good music to evoke memories of friendship, first love and heartbreak.
Dressed in their trademark attire (Ahmad in Sufi headgear, Azmat in leather overalls and O’Connell in ethnic wear), the trio kicked off their show in style — with high energy. The 200-minute plus concert was quite a spectacle, with little distractions. The grapevine that Junoon lets its songs do all the talking is quite literally true. We can vouch for it.
As the crowd launched to their feet, matching the band’s every lyric, songs like ‘Zamane Ke Andaz’, ‘Yehi Dosti Hai’ and ‘Bulla Ke Jaana Me Koun’ came as a refreshing reminder that Junoon’s musical odyssey is not over. Not yet.
With a 5,000-plus crowd jiving at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, the tranquil expressions on many a face was a clear thumbs-up to the timeless music and popularity of Junoon.
‘Bulleya’ (from ‘Parvaaz’) has always been an existential masterpiece. ‘Meri Awaaz Suno’ a big hint that there is life — and music — still in Ahmad and company. Thousands of tiny torch-lights emerging from fans, who waved their phones frantically — a constant validation of the fact.
Over the years Azmat may have chosen a path to pursue his solo music career (doubling up as an ace cyclist who recently cycled around Europe), guitarist Ahmad may also have ventured out to teach music at Queen’s College, City University of New York, while the band’s bass guitarist O’Connell got busy with his social work, but it’s this coming together of the famous trio — that the magic finally gets re-created on a starry, wind-swept Friday night.
And then there was ‘Sayonee’ — their original breakout song — that first dropped in 1997. It has been nearly 22 years, and music has transitioned from cassettes to CDs to iTunes and Cloud since, but the ballad still retains that hypnotising quality, blending rock guitar and bluesy vocals with traditional percussion drums, raga-melody and folk music. The anthem of our youth. The chorus of an entire generation. Oh, to be young again!