South Asia

Salman Ahmad, founder of South Asia’s most successful rock band Junoon, has been on a rock and roll jihad (struggle) ever since his first concert at 18 – a medical school talent show in Lahore, Pakistan. Eyes closed, emotions pumped, he was ripping through Van Halen’s ‘Eruption’ on his guitar, mesmerized by the crowd’s screams, only to discover that the yelling was coming from a group of bearded students from a religious group outraged by music they considered un-Islamic.

If Pakistan were a person, who would it be? Would it be Odysseus, undergoing a series of grueling tests in order to claim its true heroic identity? Would it be a hapless Sancho Panza, looking on with alarm as it’s dragged into ruin by the misadventures of those around it?

The USC Center on Public Diplomacy was pleased to welcome Salman Ahmad for a conversation on the public diplomacy power of rock and roll. A medical doctor by training, Ahmad formed Junoon, South Asia's biggest and longest-lasting rock band, in 1990. Ahmad discussed the success of Junoon, as well as his role as a UN Goodwill Ambassador for HIV/AIDS and his efforts for peace between Pakistan and India.