Who is Junaid Jamshed, the Vital Signs frontman killed in Pakistan plane crash?
Junaid Jamshed was a solo artist and former frontman of one of Pakistan’s most prominent rock bands, Vital Signs.
Who were Vital Signs?
Vital Signs emerged in the early Eighties, when Jamshed and his future bandmates, bassist Shahzad Hassan and keyboardist Rohail Hyatt, were university graduates. Jamshed became known for his covers of Western hits, such as George Michael’s Careless Whisper, that he would perform on campus.
This was the beginning of rock music in Pakistan, which took influence from bands such as Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Van Halen and incorporated it with elements of classical Pakistani music.
Jamshed was singing in bands while working as an engineer for the Pakistan Air Force when he was invited to join Vital Signs in 1987.
The band were pioneers of a wave of Western rock music while the ultra-conservative President General Zia-ul-Haq was in power. Despite his rejection of “western ideas”, which included music and fashion, Vital Signs proved popular on Pakistan’s underground music scene and released their debut single in 1987 to success.
By the late Eighties, Vital Signs had proved successful enough to become the first Pakistani band to tour America, returning to their homeland influenced by grunge and Seventies rock. They embarked upon a rock star lifestyle, moving to Karachi and building studios in their homes.
Vital Signs continued, albeit with an increasingly changing line-up, until the late-Nineties, touring the world and records. Divisions between the group caused them to split in 1998. There have been a couple of tentative reunions since: in 2002, and again in 2013. Jamshed remained one of the band’s most consistent members.
What did Jamshed do next?
Jamshed was a huge star by the time Vital Signs disbanded, in part because he had begun a solo career five years before the group split up. His first solo album, Junaid of Vital Signs (later called Tumhara Aur Mera Naam), was released in 1994 and a second,
Us Rah Par, came out in 1999 with a number of singles. Jamshed went on to release two more records, in 2000 and 2001, respectively, but they struggled to achieve critical acclaim in Pakistan.
Why did he stop making music?
The failure of Jamshed’s later solo output collided with his own internal turmoil. Since 1997 he had been dealing with financial trouble, the aftermath from Vital Signs’ break-up and his increasing shift towards Islam.
By 2004 he had publicly shunned his music career, acknowledged himself as a sinner and became a born-again Muslim. After bankruptcy, he became an entrepreneur and got involved with businesses as diverse as travel agencies, fashion design and high-end butchers shops. All the while, his stock was rising as a broadcaster and preacher, drawing large audiences online with his sermons and religious podcasts.
What was his fall from grace?
In 2014, Jamshed gave a television interview in which he criticised the Prophet Muhammad’s wife. The video proliferated on social media and Jamshed found himself at the centre of an investigation for blasphemy from Pakistani authorities. After a public campaign that called for his arrest for “hurting religious sentiments of Muslims”, Jamshed issued a public apology within weeks.