Krist Novoselic: Rock & Roll Jihad, and the Unifying Power of Led Zeppelin

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Krist Novoselic's column on music and politics runs every Tuesday on Reverb. Check back on Friday when he writes about what he's been listening to.

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Krist Novoselic: Rock & Roll Jihad, and the Unifying Power of Led Zeppelin

  • Krist Novoselic: Rock & Roll Jihad, and the Unifying Power of Led Zeppelin

  • ">

    randrj.jpg
    Krist Novoselic's column on music and politics runs every Tuesday on Reverb. Check back on Friday when he writes about what he's been listening to.
    Junoon--which in the Urdu language means passion--is the name of the Pakistani band led by Salman Ahmad. Ahmad's new autobiography, Rock & Roll Jihad: A Muslim Rock Star's Revolution, is the story of his passion for making music and of rock as a force to unite people.

    In the early 1980s, Ahmad spent his high school years in the United States, listening to Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, Van Halen, and other rock bands--just as I did. And in Rock & Roll Jihad, his take on the American youth culture of that era comes from the perspective of someone who also had lived in other countries (just as I did). In 1980, I lived in Yugoslavia for a year; in the U.S., I grew up in a household of immigrants and non-English speakers.

    The pretext of Ahmad's book is one I can relate to as well as anyone else: A tune like Zeppelin's "Black Dog" rocks no matter where you live or what language is spoken.

    In Rock & Roll Jihad, Ahmad takes us inside Junoon and the universal connections that Ahmad is working toward. These include his Pakistani band's trips to India to rock the house in a country that has been enveloped in a 60-year blood feud between the Hindus in India and the Muslims in Pakistan. They even play a concert in the disputed border area of Kashmir!

    Depending on who's in power, Junoon falls in or out of grace with the government in Islamabad. There are some hairy stories about how the band was confronted with intimidation and violence in Pakistani politics. Through regime changes, Ahmad and his crew are steadfast in their belief in tolerance, humanity, and justice--and determined to rock out in the process.

    The man is an achiever who falls into one great opportunity after another. He was a player on the Pakistani national cricket team. He joins the nation's first pop sensation, Vital Signs. He lands a lead role in a hit television series. He's down and broke, struggling with his musical efforts, when the phone rings and Junoon is commissioned to write a song for an advertising campaign. The exposure propels the tune and band toward a mega-smash hit.

    Ahmad is a devout Muslim in the Sufi tradition. He's a true believer, not only in God but in himself, and this is oft-repeated in the book. He's a talented musician, and his personal wholeness has obviously been a force in his achievements.

    Rock is a force that can build. But it can also tear down. This dichotomy extends to the individual. The phenomenon of rock has led plenty of talented people to self-destruct. But Ahmed has a medical degree--he's a healer by training--and the book's jacket includes a blurb by endocrinologist Deepak Chopra. This isn't another book about sex, drugs, and rock & roll--it's about believing in yourself, the potential for humanity, and rock & roll!

    The United States has spent many hundreds of billions of dollars--along with much blood, sweat, and tears--on its endeavors in the region. If maintaining security is to succeed, Americans need to understand the differences between the Middle East and a South Asian country like Pakistan. Understanding and common ground can be one and the same, and Salman Ahmad makes a case against extremism, religious supremacy, and intolerance. These concerns are universal, and rock & roll alone will not defeat them. In spite of religious, political, or cultural differences, Rock & Roll Jihad proves how the power of music is still a force to unite people.

     
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