For many of us, including myself, Junaid Jamshed died in 2004.
It was the end of the pop icon we had grown up with, obsessed over. He was our first star crush, Pakistan’s first pop idol who had charisma greater than can be equated with any Bollywood star today. But for us he died when he stopped singing, when he turned evangelist and preacher, albeit he was undoubtedly picking up millions of religious fans in the process. His stardom never waned; its aura just changed course.
We had often spoken about his decision to “convert” as I always laughingly referred to his transformation as; more to annoy him than anything else. He would always correct me, “It’s not conversion bibi; I was and still am Muslim but I have realized that I am here for a bigger purpose than singing pops songs,” he would say. I was never convinced. Maybe I was in denial, denial to believe that a teenage dream of romantic idealism was over. That dream may have died in 2004 but it found closure yesterday.
What was it about Junaid Jamshed? I remember him as my first teenage crush. He studied at the UET, Lahore, where my father taught and my brother studied; it must have been the mid eighties. JJ hadn’t stepped into the Vital Signs officially but he had started singing and was already famous for being the most good looking bloke on the campus. While the boys gathered around the girl’s common room, girls would roam around hoping to steal a glance of him and his group of equally good looking friends.
And then, along came Vital Signs – four enigmatic boys in jeans and denim jackets who gave every young girl a reason to fall in love with. We remember ‘Dil Dil Pakistan’ for being the first national anthem for the urban cool generation of Pakistan. But there were personal messages hidden in each and every song that Junaid Jamshed sang. At least that is the way it felt. He sang of beautiful girls, fair skinned and dusky; he sang of love, trust and betrayal. ‘Yeh Shaam’ was the song you heard during the monsoon rain, possibly on your first date. ‘Aitebaar’ was the ultimate break-up song. No Independence Day was complete without ‘Dil Dil Pakistan’ blaring from the car’s stereo, preferably with windows rolled down and teenage kids hanging out of all four windows. Ideally on their way up to Daman e Koh.
Love, life, romance, rebellion…things Junaid Jamshed stood for as Vital Signs; ideologies he consciously denounced with his music career in 2014. The five years prior to his announcement were spent in transitional phase. His band mates often spoke of the personal struggle he went though. Music critics say he was just as much in love with music even now, his new life caused as much turbulence in his life as it did in the minds of his fans.
Junaid Jamshed post 2004 is not one we, on the left side of his life and career, can associate with easily. But there is no reason to force that acknowledgement either. The man may be gone but his songs and his legacy are eternal and will remain part of our lives forever. RIP Junaid Jamshed.
The two sides of Junaid Jamshed, photographed by Tapu Javeri.