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Rock & Roll Jihad: A Muslim Rock Star's Revolution Hardcover – January 12, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The rise of Pakistan's most popular rock musician—unfamiliar to most Americans—is the subject of this well-meaning autobiography. Ahmad, the leader of the band Junoon, recounts his wealthy upbringing at an elite British school in Lahore and then as a Beatles obsessed teenager in New York. He describes his return to Pakistan in the midst of General Zia's military dictatorship, which introduced fundamentalist Muslim codes of conduct into public life. Ahmad is at his best describing the mishmash of 1960s American rock, '80s pop songs and Bollywood music that made up the repertoires of Pakistan's youth musicians in that same decade. Ahmad joins a band called the Vital Signs, which sweeps the country with its patriotic rock song Dil Dil Pakistan, even getting to meet Benazir Bhutto after her election. He leaves the group at the height of its fame to pursue artistic freedom and becomes even more popular with Junoon and its hit song Jazba-e-Junoon, which was the official song of the cricket World Cup. In what is well-intentioned but ultimately clichéd and egocentric memoir, Ahmad describes his more recent years as a self-appointed musical ambassador for peace, standing up for Muslims on Bill Maher's TV show and playing a concert at the U.N. General Assembly Hall, while still finding time to show Mick Jagger the Pakistani nightlife. (Jan.)
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From Booklist

Ahmad offers a fascinating glimpse into the complicated existence of a Pakistani whose unconventional life bridges the Muslim world and the West. As a teenager living in a New York City suburb, he fell in love with rock, dreamed of playing guitar in a band, and though his parents looked down upon what they thought was a ridiculous fantasy, determined to wage “a rock and roll jihad.” He formed bands in both America and Pakistan, eventually transforming himself into a Pakistani national icon. He played the first-ever rock concert in war-torn Kashmir and, in December 2007, became the first Pakistani musician to perform at a Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. He fills his story with colorful, often funny anecdotes of such incidentals as squiring Mick Jagger around Lahore (Jagger was in town attending World Cup play) and witnessing the 50-something rocker gyrate with a local dancing girl. Other anecdotes, especially after 9/11, are more somber. A hopeful, sensitive memoir in which music functions as a healing bond between peoples and cultures. --June Sawyers

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Editon edition (January 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416597670
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416597674
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,409,369 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Khurram Abbas on January 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having grown up listening to this band with its inspiring, upbeat and revolutionary lyrics that tore down the walls of bigotry, hate and racism; I could ostensibly relate parts of it to my own life. An author who sought inspiration from some musical icons in not just the west, but the east created a unique blend of music - which soon became his trademark signature style proved that by doing so he could transcend beyond music and bridge the opposites; be it culture, traditions, religions, nations or races. The book is also a classic tale of a heroic struggle against all odds, for this band unlike many spoon fed bands in the west, was confronted with a dictatorship that abhorred freedom through musical lyrics, powerful religious elements that worked to quell musical/melodic expression, and lack of tools for mass dissemination. Yet, Salman Ahmad's band Junoon rose to new heights and became South Asia's leading rock band. The band incorporated Western Rock, yet never let go of its roots and paid homage to mystic Sufi poets.

This book is also a recommended read for people in the west who wish to understand how moderate Muslims adhere to a softer side of Islam, which they believe is the true face of their religion. There is absolutely no room for religious intolerance, violence, and extremism in the true meaning of Islam. Salman engages in challenging spiritual, mental and physical journeys to distinguish the true side of Islam (a religion which literally means peace), from the side that was created as a result of the perception of a religion that was hijacked on Sept 11th 2009 by fanatics and hate mongers. At the same time, he draws parallels and debates on western talk shows with heavyweight stalwarts such as Bill Mahr on his critically acclaimed show "Politically Incorrect".
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jim Buck on February 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While we may not see it easily, the world is in a constant and irreversible state of change--sometimes seemingly for the better, sometimes seemingly for the worse. This is also true in the relationship between east and west. While news of new Taliban suicide bombings in Pakistan and Afghanistan may not seem like the situation is changing for the better, it is on the sidelines. By "sidelines" we mean cross-cultural exchanges and explorations in areas of music and the other arts where the people--and not their governments--come together. Evidence of this change exists in our friend Salman Ahmad, a Pakistan-born Sufi Muslim rock star, who has sold more than 30 million albums with his band Junoon, which the New York Times called, "the U2 of South Asia". Although Junoon's line-up has changed, Salman continues to tour with his new band mates. In mid-January, Salman released his autobiography, Rock & Roll Jihad, published by Simon and Schuster, a well-written and enjoyable book which I, Deepak, had the pleasure and privilege to write the back cover notes for.
Last September 12th we held the Concert for Pakistan at the UN, Salman's second concert held inside the UN General Assembly Hall. The first concert Salman held inside that prestigious world body was on UN Day in late October 2001, barely six weeks after the tragedy of September 11th. Salman holds the distinction of being the first--and possibly only--rock musician ever to hold a rock concert inside the space where Colin Powell told the world that Saddam Hussein was aiding Al Qaeda, and where Hugo Chavez "smelled the sulfur" of that ol' Diablo, George Bush.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ian Johnson on April 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Too often our view of Islam is shaped by media stereotypes: bearded men and veiled women, terrorists and fiery preachers. In fact, the world's billion-plus Muslims are as complex as any other group of people on the planet and this book shows why. Although obviously Ahmad is not typical, the people who listen to his music are a cross-view of society in South Asia. In addition, for western readers, Ahmad's biography allows us to learn about Islam and South Asia while holding on to something familiar: a rock star's rise. That makes it accessibe, while at the same time feeding us lots of new information.
The book is well-organized and well-written. I found it a fast read but one that left a lot to think about. I can highly recommend it to anyone wanting an accessible way into this important part of the world.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By EZ Reader on January 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For nearly two decades, Salman Ahmad and his band Junoon have been viewed by critics and fans alike as the "Beatles of South Asia". While not widely known (yet) here in the United States, Junoon has sold 30 million albums worldwide, having amassed a fan base of admirers that includes Melissa Etheridge, Mick Jagger, and Al Gore.

Ahmad's newly released autobiography, Rock & Roll Jihad: A Muslim Rock Star's Revolution, documents Salman's serendipitous rise from humble beginnings to super-stardom. As a young teenager growing up in Tappan, New York, Ahmad soaks up American culture and is musically and socially affected by an eclectic cast of characters from diverse backgrounds who become his closest friends and influences. Among these are a religious Irish-Catholic guitar-player (Brian O'Connell); a precocious 13-year old with an appreciation for Islamic culture who forms a Beatles tribute band; a teenage Woodstock throwback who keeps kosher; and a pretty Homecoming Princess with whom Salman becomes smitten. Preferring to actively join his friends in their musical endeavors and garage bands rather than play the role of a musical spectator, he buys his first electric guitar in 1978-- a Les Paul purchased in Paramus, New Jersey-- and starts to play.

As the shy Salman proceeds through his high school years, he gains more and more confidence, surpassing his mentors and garage band mates in musicianship and instrumental skill in ways that he could never have imagined possible. His leit motif of bringing people together becomes the new mantra for his musical and spiritual life.

Upon his return to Pakistan after graduating from high school, Salman is faced with a nation and community on the verge of a breakdown.
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