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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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