We All Speak the Same Language

Remember the MTV tag line We All Speak the Same Language from their office in Manhattan? This will remind you of that. Read this interesting piece in The Wall Street Journal not too long ago on Salman Ahmed of Junoon, the sufi rock band that took South Asia by storm in the mid-1990s. In the piece, titled 'Sufi Rocker, Campus Troubadour', author Robert Schroeder talks to Salman and has him reflect on everything from politics to religion and the role of music in fostering a sense of community that is not racially motivated.

First of all, hats off to Mr. Ahmed for being an effective ambassador of peace (his work in promoting peace between India and Pakistan is admirable) and of his religion (a moderate, vastly followed and more prevalent version of Islam which is rarely visible through Western media). I did not know that he was part of Vital Signs, the first pop music group in South Asia I believe. Their first album titled Vital Signs - 1, had an instrumental track, one of my all-time favorites, titled 'Samina'. Now I know who the artist behind that was! I would love to go back to college and take the course he's teaching. Oh, by the way, he has studied to be a doctor and does have a degree he has earned, not an honorary one that was bestowed upon him for his efforts to promote 'peace on earth'. Miss Congeniality would have a chuckle at that ;)

Here are a couple of excerpts from the article:
"My job is to plant seeds" as a musician, teacher and sometime-documentary subject, Mr. Ahmad says. "There's a goodness in the universe and you're on earth for little time, and your job is just to preserve that goodness."

"It's the experiential Islam," he says of Sufism. Citing the poet Rumi, he says Sufism is about the "oneness of God and oneness of humanity. And the other big thing is that it loves diversity."

"My aim, really, is to give the students as wide a picture of Muslim cultural expression as I can," he says of his college course, Islamic Music and Culture of South Asia. To that end, he and his pupils dissect everything from traditional qawwali (devotional Sufi music) to Islamic rock and hip-hop bands like Iran's Hypernova and Denmark's Outlandish.

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