Rock & Roll Jihad
A Muslim Rock Star's Revolution
Publication Date: January 12, 2010
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"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."
-- Melissa Etheridge, from the Introduction
With 30 million record sales under his belt, and with fans including Bono and Al Gore, Pakistanborn Salman Ahmad is renowned for being the first rock & roll star to destroy the wall that divides the West and the Muslim world. Rock & Roll Jihad is the story of his incredible journey.
Facing down angry mullahs and oppressive dictators who wanted all music to be banned from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Salman Ahmad rocketed to the top of the music charts, bringing Westernstyle rock and pop to Pakistani teenagers for the first time. His band Junoon became the U2 of Asia, a sufi - rock group that broke boundaries and sold a record number of albums. But Salman's story began in New York, where he spent his teen years learning to play guitar, listening to Led Zeppelin, hanging out at rock clubs and Beatles Fests, making American friends, and dreaming of rock-star fame. That dream seemed destined to die when his family returned to Pakistan and Salman was forced to follow the strictures of a newly religious -- and stratified -- society. He finished medical school, met his soul mate, and watched his beloved funkytown of Lahore transform with the rest of Pakistan under the rule of Zia into a fundamentalist dictatorship: morality police arrested couples holding hands in public, Little House on the Prairie and Live Aid were banned from television broadcasts, and Kalashnikovs and rocket launchers proliferated on college campuses via the Afghani resistance to Soviet occupation in the north.
Undeterred, the teenage Salman created his own underground jihad: his mission was to bring his beloved rock music to an enthusiastic new audience in South Asia and beyond. He started a traveling guitar club that met in private Lahore spaces, mixing Urdu love poems with Casio synthesizers, tablas with Fender Stratocasters, and ragas with power chords, eventually joining his first pop band, Vital Signs. Later, he founded Junoon, South Asia's biggest rock band, which was followed to every corner of the world by a loyal legion of fans called Junoonis. As his music climbed the charts, Salman found himself the target of religious fanatics and power-mad politicians desperate to take him and his band down. But in the center of a new generation of young Pakistanis who go to mosques as well as McDonald's, whose religion gives them compassion for and not fear of the West, and who see modern music as a "rainbow bridge" that links their lives to the rest of the world, nothing could stop Salman's star from rising.
Today, Salman continues to play music and is also a UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador, traveling the world as a spokesperson and using the lessons he learned as a musical pioneer to help heal the wounds between East and West -- lessons he shares in this illuminating memoir.
Robert Schroeder has worked in various parts of the world as a journalist.
"Rock & Roll Jihad is the fascinating story of the evolution of a new kind of planetary citizen. Salman Ahmad's band, Junoon, can boast of being the most popular rock group in South Asia -- but its larger signifi cance is that music, poetry, politics, and humanitarianism have been the core elements of Salman's personal quest.... I hope in reading this book that you are inspired to take your own journey of mystery, wonder, enchantment, and most important of all, healing. The greatest gift an artist can possess is the ability to raise the consciousness of his audience. Salman Ahmad has dedicated himself to transformation, and in that I join hands with him in gratitude and hope."
-- Deepak Chopra
"In these troubled times of cultural misunderstanding, there are peace talks -- and also peace rock. Salman Ahmad's memoir, Rock & Roll Jihad, describes his own jihad, his struggle with the multiple crises in the world, and his own youthful idealism. Rather than throw up his hands at what look to be irreparable divides, Ahmad turns to the nature of kinship within families and world communities. He moves from idealism to changemaker as a medical doctor, a UN ambassador for both AIDS and peace between Pakistan and India, and the founder and singer in South Asia's biggest rock band, Junoon. As Ahmad shows, rock & rock diplomacy can create instant kinship. It may be one of the best ways for the youth of the world -- the future -- to set aside the old history of fear and mistrust and just get down and rock out together." -- Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club
"Rock & Roll Jihad is not just the story of a young man's incredible journey to becoming a rock star. It is also the story of how that young man also became a hero, risking it all to stand up against intolerance and hatred. Read this book and be inspired!" -- P. W. Singer, Director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at Brookings, and author of Wired for War
"Rock & Roll Jihad is a gorgeously written and endlessly entertaining book that reminds one of both the incredible power of music to encourage positive social change and how deep the cultural connections between the U.S. and Muslim world have long been. Rock & Roll Jihad will forever change the way you think about the Muslim world, the war on terror, and rock & roll to boot. An absolutely essential read for anyone concerned about the future relationship between the United States and the Muslim world. Salman Ahmad's beautiful writing style is the perfect complement to his electrifying guitar playing; if his seminal band Junoon is known as the 'U2 of Asia,' this book will launch him as the Bono of commentators on the common future of our hopelessly entangled civilizations." -- Mark LeVine, author of Heavy Metal Islam
"...Has found a way to bridge bitter divides...There is something unusually compelling about his combination of total coolness, gentle innocence and self-deprecating humor." — Sally Quinn, The Washington Post
"A revolutionist of our own time...[who] perseveres and never stops believing that music and the arts can help heal his country's violent and short history...What I love about Rock & Roll Jihad is not only the story of Ahmad's success against all odds, but how his journey is intertwined with Pakistan's and the effect they have on each other." —Northwest Asian Weekly