‘Wow, what a voice!’ Rohail Hyatt on the first time he saw Junaid Jamshed sing

Published 18 Dec, 2016 09:30am

Rohail Hyatt shares memories of discovering JJ and the drama surrounding the first major Vital Signs concert

It was 1983 when Rohail Hyatt first saw the tall, scrawny, dark-haired but good-looking guy that was later to become the front man for his band.

He and Shahi Hasan were already a few bands old by then, Progressions and Chord X being two that they had been a part of, and were on the lookout for a vocalist. Someone mentioned that they look out for this new kid who was going to perform in Islamabad. They hopped on a friend’s motorcycle and made their way from Rawalpindi to the capital.

“He had come down from Peshawar, I think,” related Rohail, “Junaid was not an engineering student at that time. He was performing in a girls’ college in F6 (Islamabad) and he was singing ‘Careless Whisper’. I had just managed to get into the hall right at the end.”

Hyatt was impressed. “I thought, ‘Wow. What a voice!’,” he related, “It was a strange voice, you know – he had the high-range, high-pitch sort of thing. We didn’t get to talk to him then.

A young Junaid Jamshed — White Star
A young Junaid Jamshed — White Star

“We were just a part of the audience and we’d just managed to get there right towards the end. We were on motorcycles, it was cold and we had to get back before it got dark.”

It would be a while before the two would catch Junaid performing again. This time, Junaid was a part of an engineering university band. “The next time I saw Junaid was in Flashman’s Hotel in Pindi, in a band called Nuts and Bolts. Nusrat (later a Vital Signs guitarist) had mentioned to me that ‘That kid’s coming back. The guy you liked’ and that perhaps we should go and see him.

They managed to get to the venue a little early and caught the last four or five songs. This time they finally approached Junaid and began working on their first major concert, one that was not to be missed: it was to take place at a Kinnaird College in Lahore.

“It’s like this crazy script from a movie where these young guys are getting together for this big objective,” laughed Rohail. “Because, you know, if you made it to Kinnaird College, do you realize the amount of guys jo sarr jatey thay? That how the hell did these guys even get in?!”

“There would be fights between guys and their girlfriends. The girls would say ‘We are attending this concert’ and the guys would argue ‘You’re not attending a Vital Signs concert.’

Also read: This video of Junaid Jamshed and Salman Ahmed singing 'Dil Dil Pakistan' will warm your heart

That’s not the end of it. The conflict wasn’t just restricted to arguments alone. “There used to be guys waiting outside to beat us up for playing at Kinnaird College,” laughed Rohail, “And Junaid’s university friends would be standing out there to protect us. It was kinda crazy.”

So did they ever get beaten up? “No,” said Rohail, “We never got beaten up. But there was one concert, at the National Stadium [Karachi] where things got a little crazy.”

This is a previously-unpublished extract from an interview conducted with Rohail Hyatt in 2008. A part of that interview, titled ‘The life and times of Rohail Hyatt’ was published in Images on Sunday on July 26, 2009.

Originally published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, December 18th, 2016