JJ’s Swan Song

When Tausiq Haider, compere, stepped on stage to announce the next entry for the Maadr-e-Millat Train Launching ceremony, held on Independence Day, no body expected the news he was giving. Junaid Jamshed, sporting an ever growing beard, was going to perform for the last time onstage in Pakistan.

“Not that again’’ cried some of his friends backstage after Tausiq broke the news. After all hadn’t he bid adieu to singing early last year and then reverted the decision? What is the man up to ruining his career like that?

The Last time on stage..so he says.

JJ’s journey in music and stardom started in Pindi in 1987. “I wanted it to end in the same place with the same song ‘Dil Dil Pakistan’” said JJ. “This is the most satisfying day of my life because now I have proved and concluded what I said last year.

People would come up to me to and say what sort of Islam do you preach when you sing and prance one night and go door to door preaching the word of Islam the next?” Caught between the perks of fame, mega money and his deep love for Religion, JJ struggled for five years to come to the conclusion of his career and finally leave the field of singing.

Mentored by the preeminent producer, writer, poet, Shoaib Mansoor in the field of music and media, JJ and his companions took Pakistan by storm with the various classic pop albums and videos they produced. Critics did term the band and JJ’s voice a shade below par.

But the fans were absolutely hooked on to the ‘sound’ of Vital Signs and that’s what mattered. Their music spread far and wide wherever Pakistanis were and where Urdu was understood. Touring the entire globe many times a year the Vital Signs journeyed through the late ‘80’s and most of the nineties making an indelible impact on Urdu pop music scene. The band went through many crises and was reconstituted but the beat went on.

As a lead singer JJ found limitations in his musical expression and in the early ‘90s opened up his solo career with more experimentation in his albums. Well established by now the band became low key as JJ pushed full throttle on his own career. His spiritual foment continued as he pursued one Alims door after another. Back in his school days after all he was a naat reciter before he came to pop singing in his teenage.

Praying five times a day he was searching for the peace of mind he could not get in his fame and money and his admirers. Being a Muslim, convinced that this was the correct path to Allah he adopted the education that our beloved Prophet(Peace Be upon Him).

At the peak of his fame and fortune he could be seen in the company of Alims sleeping on the floor in a tiny masjid in the outback of Pakistan preaching in their company.

However after coming home from the religious activities the lure of the stage would embark him on a world tour performing music in London and LA. Inwardly tormented by the contradictions of his beliefs and his profession. JJ started thinking of gradually withdrawing from the glamour world. Inspired by the case of Cat Stevens embracing and then preaching Islam.

With a bigger family and responsibilities he worried about the future if he left music. So he started to venture into business. “ Rasoolullah (S.A.W) was himself a trader and a cloth trader at that,” says JJ. So he opened up shop in Karachi and got into designer Men’s ware Shalwar Kurta. At that time in the late nineties he had already ‘ become nauseous’ of the showbiz field and its trappings and wanted to secure his future by going into the clothes business. Initially his experiment into the harsh world of business failed. But he teamed up again with more experienced hands forging a partnership and marketing his name to promote a chain of outlets selling Shalwar Kurta for men.

AT the PTV studios explaining his decision..yet again.

Returning from Multan after his religious tour, early in 2002 JJ called a press conference and announced his intention to leave the music field as soon as his contractual obligations with a multinational and his promoters abroad were done with. The press had a field day and somehow or the other the message which came through was that he had retired from Showbiz.

Students and fans pressurized him to take back his imminent retirement from music and a former band member, prevailed upon JJ to reconsider and continue. This didn’t go well with the fans or the Ulema, it was neither here not there. The internal struggle for JJ intensified. With some of the press and the public ridiculing his behavior it was tough on JJ to restate what he meant when he had called the press conference.

Finally with his clothes outlets streamlined all over country now he decided to vindicate what he said in the spring of 2002. He chose the invitation by the PM to perform on the launch of the Maadr-e-Millat train to break the news.

After the function the buzz was about the retirement he had announced and he immediately went to PTV studios to confirm what Tausiq had said, yes he had performed for the last time in Pakistan. As the hosts of the special transmission questioned his decision, JJ summed up by striking a message for individual responsibility and emphasized the poet philosopher Iqbal’s message for the Muslims in this context.

Later on a late lunch with old friends, JJ reminisces his singing career while browsing a scrap book. He keeps humming “Those were the days my friend, we thought they’d never end” as he jogs his memory with them. “Yes I am an extremist” he says when pointed to the two positions of a man in the middle of all the media glare and now aspiring to spiritual excellence. He finds no dichotomy in his behaviour.

Before jetting out to Washington that night to perform for the last time there at the invitation of Pakistan Government, JJ passed by the park in Islamabad where he had filmed his video for Dil Dil Pakistan. As he pointed out the Rock where he had written ‘I Love Pakistan’. He didn’t want to stop and take a look. “Its still written there, but its history now” he said. “Lets go”.

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