Rock & Roll Jihad: A Muslim Rock Star’s Revolution (Review)

Book cover for "Rock & Roll Jihad" by Salman Ahmad.Title: Rock & Roll Jihad: A Muslim Rock Star’s Revolution

Author: Salman Ahmad

Publication Year: 2010

Pages: 240

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Review copy from the publisher

From the cover:

With 30 million record sales under his belt, and with fans including Bono and Al Gore, Pakistan-born Salman Ahmad is renowned for being the first rock & roll star to destroy the wall that divides the West and the Muslim world. Rock & Roll Jihad is the story of his incredible journey.

Facing down angry mullahs and oppressive dictators who wanted all music to be banned from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Salman Ahmad rocketed to the top of the music charts, bringing Western-style rock and pop to Pakistani teenagers for the first time. His band Junoon became the U2 of Asia, a sufi-rock group that broke boundaries and sold a record number of albums. But Salman’s story began in New York, where he spent his teen years learning to play guitar, listening to Led Zeppelin, hanging out at rock clubs and Beatles Fests, making American friends, and dreaming of rock-star fame. That dream seemed destined to die when his family returned to Pakistan and Salman was forced to follow the strictures of a newly religious — and stratified — society.

Today, Salman continues to play music and is also a UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador, traveling the world as a spokesperson and using the lessons he learned as a musical pioneer to help heal the wounds between East and West — lessons he shares in this illuminating memoir.

To be completely honest, I had never heard of Ahmad (or Junoon) until I saw the synopsis for this book. Not that I’m usually particularly “up” on these kinds of things, but I just thought that I should mention it.

I really enjoyed the story of Ahmad’s musical journey, and particularly how his music intertwined with his Islam, even though I will likely never listen to his music. Not that I don’t think it’s very good or anything, just … I only speak English? I don’t know. Feel free to convince me otherwise, though, and maybe I’ll give it a shot.

Even having said that, though, I really learned a lot from reading his story. There’s a lot more to it than just the story of a band – there’s political intrigue, personal challenges and conflict, and even a love story. I’m not normally the type of person who reads musical memoirs, but Rock & Roll Jihad was more than that. It told the general story of a country and a culture through the specific narrative of one person’s life.

So if, like me, this isn’t normally the kind of book that you’d find yourself interested in … I urge you to give it a shot anyways. I found it interesting, educational, and highly entertaining.


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