I haven’t written anything in a while. I have been thinking of writing about few things for quite some time now, but somehow did not feel motivated enough to do so. But something happened today. Something that has affected me on a personal level and I feel like it will consume me if I don’t put it into words.
In all honesty I feel surprised at how much of a personal loss I felt when I first read the news of Junaid Jamshed aboard the ill fated PK-661. But I understand. Being a Pakistani millennial (or 90’s kid as we prefer calling it here), it was almost impossible not to have any effect of Junaid on your personal life. I am not using ‘personal‘ here in loose terms. This is true for many of us.
My first memory of him, like thousands of other kids back in the day is, of course, ‘Dil Dil Pakistan‘ and the nostalgia connected with it. It is more than just a patriotic song of my homeland. It was the song for which I would especially ask my mother to wake me up during late night PTV programs. It was the song for which I would turn my focus away from my books and towards the TV while my mother was trying to put some Math in me (and ultimately pay a hefty price for it). It reminds me of happy times. And simpler times. It reminds me of 14th August every year. It reminds of the small Pakistan flags I would put up all over the walls of my childhood home. It reminds me of a time when I could proudly and whole heartedly embrace my love for my country without looking into its many flawed dynamics.
For many, his voice is reminiscent of their first love. Junaid belonged to first true ‘pop‘ boyband of Pakistan. For 90’s youth, melodies produced by Vital Signs provided a hefty dose of the carefree elation of young love as well as an antidote for broken hearts. Then of course there was a time when he started his solo career and many people weren’t sure if it would make the same impact. However when the first album came out it was an even bigger success with the most memorable romantic melodies and music videos that are timeless and still resonate with the common man, kind of like Ghalib’s poetry. The very first mix tape I made had the most songs from that very album. I still remember the countless times I would switch on my PC sitting in my hostel room only to listen to ‘Aietbar‘ on Winamp. It might not be true to call Junaid the best vocalist or musician ever produced by Pakistan, but his voice certainly resonated with the common man’s heart in the rawest, most honest manner no one else’s could. Sometime after he had decided to call it quits on his music career, he once happened to be on board the same flight of which my Uncle was captain. He recalls a frank chat with Junaid where he asked him the reason for quitting music, especially when his voice meant so much for so many people in Pakistan and around the world. “Why would Allah want to take that help away from people?”, he argued. My uncle, an avid fan, felt compelled to ask this question because he like many others saw it as no less than a tragedy to never be able to take the positive energy from his voice again.
But as time showed he never actually quit music. Not truly anyway. Apart from voicing ‘nasheeds‘ and ‘Naats‘, he would occasionally sing something, without musical instruments (if he could stop Salman from playing the guitar). While it was not the same thing, many of us who loved his voice still cherished these rare occurances.
But he was not just a singer. It would be unfair to his legacy to look at only one aspect of his life. If we are talking about the 90’s generation and the effect JJ had on their lives on a personal level, it would be dishonest not to mention that he was also an inspiration to a large segment of population for his religious and spiritual transformation. While all may not necessarily understand or agree with the choices he made, it is true that he found peace in something which eludes a lot of people and who spend their lifetimes without having a moment of acceptance. He had found it in religion. In this aspect as well, he very much represented the 90’s Pakistan and his transition to post-90’s evangelism that mirrored what was happening with a large segment of Pakistani youth which meant that he continued to be a hero to many people, even if not the same ones. His brand of religiosity like all other brands had its positive and negative elements. People, even fans like me, had a field day joking about some of his lets-just-say ‘inconsistencies’ for the lack of a better word. I would argue that even that was on many levels purely out of love for him because we all felt personally connected to him and felt ownership over his personal life like only true fans would. But by all accounts he was content with the life choices he made and continued to touch people’s hearts one way or the other. Like most people he was a man of many colours. But he was definitely THE icon of 90’s Pakistan and his life journey had stark similarities with Pakistani society itself. He may no longer be among us but he left an indelible mark and us 90s kids will forever be indebted to him.
P.S Time to listen to ‘Aitebar‘ one more time.