Rooted in New York and Pakistan, Sufi rock group Junoon delighted fans at Expo 2020 Dubai with a message of peace, love and unity, as they played a stellar gig in Dubai Exhibition Centre on Friday.
Due to the band’s cross-cultural upbringing, their musical influences are diverse, spanning western rock icons such as The Beatles and Led Zeppelin through to legendary Pakistani Sufi singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
Formed in 1990, the band comprises friends from youth with a shared passion for great music: lead guitarist and songwriter Salman Ahmad, bass player Brian O’Connell (Ahmad’s childhood friend from New York), alongside lead vocalist Ali Azmat (Ahmad’s medical school neighbour in Pakistan). Since then, Junoon have gone on to create 19 albums together, and sold 30 million records worldwide.
Speaking ahead of the concert, the band celebrated this opportunity to reunite and play live together for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began. They also expressed their gratitude to their dedicated fans, whom the band lovingly dub ‘junoonis’.
“[Brian, Ali and myself] were what they call ‘junoonis’ – junoonis are people with uncompromising passion, bordering on madness. That’s what brought us together,” explained Ahmad.
“We’ve played in Dubai many times before, but each one seems to be getting better, because Dubai keeps getting better and more exciting. To be a part of this great event is really quite spectacular. We’re honoured to be here,” said O’Connell.
Ahmad commented: “[Our message is] unity in diversity. We live in a world which is facing urgent threats like climate change. The only way we can face the world is very united. And so that diversity of 192 nations coming here together for Expo 2020 Dubai is a great symbol.”
He added: “When I began writing songs, I wondered, what I could say that would inspire the people of South Asia. The message is love, peace and never giving up.”