“Kiya haal hai bachoon”, (how are you kids?), somehow these words still ring in my ears, the venue was Bahria University (or was it school), Islamabad somewhere in 1992, and Vital Signs was there to play their magic, the band rushed to the stage and that’s when we heard JJ say, “Kiya hall hai bachoon”. Alas the man is no more. I distinctly remember Vital Signs introducing “Awaz” a new band at that concert. Speculations ran high “Awaz” will grow up to be big, it did, but not as big as Vital Signs or JJ. Vital Signs and specially JJ shot to fame after their hit song “Dil Dil Pakistan” was released. Those in their teens in the early 90’s should be able to recall “Dil Dil Pakistan” being only second in popularity to the National Anthem. The Zia era had ended, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) was in power and Benazir wanted to promote liberalism. Before the “Vital Signs” era only Zohaib and Nazia existed on the pop music scene. For someone like me in his teens in those volatile times, it was like finding an oasis in the midst of a desert. Music, specially good music was what we craved for, and we got it in drops, thanks to the “Vital Signs”, also called as the, “Good Looking Music” the daily fix kept increasing on a large scale, by the tap in full flow.
For what else does a teenager want, good friends, good music, a few puffs of cigarette and in extreme cases, to get stoned? I am from that generation who not grew up, but actually lived through those times and saw, Vital Signs, and then JJ shoot to fame. It won’t be incorrect to say that no band in Pakistan got the fame, as did Vital Signs, and no lead singer got the love, respect, and fame that JJ got; rightly so. JJ was to Paksiatn what Cat Stevens; Yusuf Islam was to the UK or the world. Listening to his hit songs; “Yeh Shaam”, “Yaarian”, “Saanwali”, “Tumahar aur mera naam”, “Challa”, “Smajhana” and “Yaadein”, “Jeetayngay”, “chupa lena”, ” aisay hum jeeyain”, “woh kon thee” over and over again, was a pure treat. For those who knew how cassettes worked, it was play, rewind, play and repeat. No party or gathering would be complete without JJ or Vital Signs playing in the background. The boys from twin city were all rage. Who wouldn’t remember that Pepsi ad with JJ, dancing on the stage, the man had a melodious voice, he was good looking and to top it all a beautiful human being. I remember him once coming to a TV show on 14th August wearing a green and white T shirt, saying, “bus andar aur bahir sa yahe hona chahiye”.
Later, JJ split from Vital Signs and the band broke up, but he kept on releasing albums, which were hits and got famous just as good, “Us raah per” and “Dil ki baat”. Towards 2003 or maybe 04 he left music for good. There was news about JJ being seen with a certain Moulana from the Tableeghi Jamaat in his sports car. Little did we take it seriously. But then JJ was JJ perhaps he was looking for answers and he found them in faith. The matters of the heart are strange in deed, for no one knows about them save for the person himself or the “Deity”. He joined the Tableehgi Jamaat givign up his life of fame and music. Fans and the music industry was aghast, but he left it for good. JJ launched his very own clothes lineup Junaid Jamshed and later J. (J Dot). Which grew equally successful and famous. The brand, to this day is very famous and a success. In later years he started appearing on religious shows on TV, singing Naats and giving sermons. The man had his share of criticism from the medis, specially social media, being termed a misogynist and later even a blasphemer, for slip of tongue on a show. There was a time when the poor guy was beaten up on the air port by the self-righteous Maulanas who declared him a blasphemer, to which he responded by pardoning them in open. Having the gist of voice he; JJ released a few Naat albums later which were a roaring success. JJ was a good human being, soft spoken, and a philanthropist too. He was the picture of an ideal practical Muslim, off course all beings have shortcomings and so did he.
On 7th December 2016 the man JJ died in a plane crash (along with 47 others) while coming back from a Tableegh (preaching Islam) mission in Chitral and Pakistan lost a good human being, a singer, star par excellence and above all a true patriot. He will be missed dearly, for I have rarely seen the outpouring of messages and eulogies said for anyone on social or electronic media like they have been said for JJ. He was a will remain a darling to all music buffs, specially those growing up in the 90’s era. JJ we miss you…”yeh shaam phir nahee aye gi…” Allah Almighty bless your soul. Ameen