After Junoon disbanded, more than pursuing a solo career as a musician, Salman Ahmed has taken it upon himself to be an ambassador for Pakistan on the foreign front. After being named UN Ambassador for AIDS awareness, he came out with a video 'Alvida' that focused on the crisis at hand and is looking towards making documentaries that he hopes will change the way the West perceives Pakistan.
Garnering a lot of criticism for using his celebrity as a bouncing board to network internationally, Salman Ahmed continues to do what he has to do. Inspired by Bono, he insists on using his celebrity as a catalyst for social change. Of course, what he does on the ground in Pakistan is yet to be seen.
Mag4you.com talks to Salman Ahmed on the power pop culture wields over politics and his experience at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting
Mag4you.com: Tell us about the Clinton Global Initiative - how was the experience of being a part of it?
Salman Ahmed: CGI was a very inspiring and humbling experience. Humbling because I was in the company of so many brilliant people from the world of media, art, business and politics and inspiring because I had a chance to share my thoughts in front of a very powerful and influential audience.
Mag4you.com: Did you speak on the event?
Salman Ahmed: Yes. I spoke about building cultural understanding between Islam and the west using films and music. After Bono (U2) last year, Bill Clinton invited me to be the sole artist on the member's panel. President Musharraf and I were the only two Pakistani speakers.
Mag4you.com: How relevant is CGI to Pakistan and its development?
Salman Ahmed: Well, 7.3 billion dollars have been allocated to projects all around the world. A certain sum of it will be spent on projects in Pakistan alongside India and Bangladesh (global health and poverty alleviation). My personal commitment was announced at the summation of CGI, which is to continue to promote cultural harmony and HIV/AIDS awareness in South Asia as well as presenting the Muslim viewpoint through music activism in US college campuses. CGI is a global forum for the exchange of ideas and commitments for REAL action. Pakistan is a very important Islamic country and definitely needs to be better understood in the west.
Mag4you.com: Do you think this meeting has achieved something?
Salman Ahmed: The most important objective that CGI strives to achieve is the building of Islands of common ground. It was a frantic three days of getting to know people from academics, politics, business, global health and media. I had the unique opportunity to discuss Rockstar and the Mullahs with Barbra Streisand, The Devil wears Prada with Anne Hathaway, Nusrat Fateh Ali and Led Zeppelin with Hollywood's Jeff Skoll (Syriana) and of course connected with Bill Clinton and Bill Gates.
Mag4you.com: You have been involved in a number of events this year, speaking about Islam and Pakistan. Do you plan to go into politics or development?
Salman Ahmed: In today's world being a celebrity for celebrity's sake is such a waste of precious airtime. Pop culture drives politics whether it's Bono or Bob Geldof, George Clooney or Angelina Jolie. The issues that celebrity/activists speak about resonate with a lot of people who are skeptical of politicians.10 years ago I cautioned Imran Khan against going into politics because I thought he would've been far more effective (like Maulana Edhi) in pursuing social change in Pakistan through education and health reform. I feel I'm far more comfortable representing Pakistan as an artist/activist and my constituency is beyond borders.
Mag4you.com: Your album came out in late December last year. Since then, you have performed all over the world. Why has Pakistan not seen Salman Ahmed live?
Salman Ahmed: My life is in overdrive, I've set high goals for myself and I want my music and films to be recognised on international merit. But coming to my fans here, I will be performing and speaking on media, culture in Pakistan in November for the international YPO conference (Abida Parveen and Zia Mohyeddin are also going to be there). I'll make another trip for a concert in December for UNAIDS. Because of my international commitments, I'll only be able to do a full- fledged Pakistan tour next year, Inshallah.
Mag4you.com: There is buzz that you may do the music for A Mighty Heart (Brad Pitt and Anjelina Jolie). True?
Salman Ahmed: Samina and I have been in discussions with Michael Winterbottom (Director of A Mighty Heart) and Brad Pitt's production company. They have requested my music and films and are short-listing their final candidates for the project. A final decision will be made in January so naturally I'm very excited that they have considered my work amongst the other Hollywood music directors. I'm hoping for a positive response.