Other worlds beyond the stars

Junoon's fame has deeper roots in the hearts of Pakistanis than any notification from the Ministry of Culture.

When the Pakistani band Junoon toured India in May earlier this year, the success they achieved far exceeded expectations. The summer tour gave young Indians an opportunity to see Junoon´s scintillating live performances, with their mix of the high-adrenaline frenzy of rock concerts and the delirium of Sufi khanqahs (shrines), that have caught the imagination of their Pakistani counterparts across the border.The popularity of the remarkable phenomenon that is Junoon, however, did not prevent the Pakistani government from raking up trouble for the group back home.
In September, the government interrogated the band about its "subversive", "objectionable remarks" made in interviews to Zee TV and the BBC. Junoon was accused of "belittling the concept of the ideology of Pakistan" during its India tour. It was also charged with emphasising "cultural similarities" between India and Pakistan and hinting at "reunification".

The entire incident is laced with heavy irony, considering that Junoon is not just Pakistan´s most popular band, it is also Pakistan´s most incredibly, even distressingly, patriotic band. One of its hit albums includes a rock rendition of Pakistan´s national anthem. Junoon (in Urdu, "obsession to the point of insanity") has consistently recited lines from the holy Qur´an in its songs. It has made spirited rock ballads out of the verses of Allama Iqbal, Pakistan´s celebrated national poet. The band also came up with the ´greatest´ patriotic song of the past few years, "Jazba-e-Junoon", which was a big hit during the last cricket World Cup in 1996. With the holy Qur´an, the national anthem, and Allama Iqbal´s poetry, Junoon´s brand of patriotism is right up the Pakistani state´s alley.

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Himal Southasian