Shehzad Roy

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Shehzad Roy
Shehzad Roy.JPG
Shehzad Roy is a singer and social activist from Pakistan.
Background information
Birth name Shehzad Roy
Born Karachi, Pakistan
Genres Pop
Occupation(s) Singer, philanthropist
Instruments Vocals, Guitar
Years active 1995 – present
Labels Fire Records
Spectrum Records
Associated acts Wasu aur Mein, Chal Parha

Shehzad Roy (Urdu: شہزاد روئے) is a Pakistani singer, social worker and humanitarian. He started his singing career in 1995 and has recorded six albums since. He has recorded many hit songs such as "Saali," "Teri Soorat" and "Kangna," but is most famous for his 2008 socio-political album Qismat Apney Haath Mein (translated to 'We make our own destiny').[1] Roy is also the president and founder of Zindagi Trust,[2][3] a non-government charitable organisation, that strives to improve the quality of education available to the average Pakistani.[4]

Roy has recently produced and hosted 2 documentary series, Chal Parha, about the state of public education in Pakistan, and Wasu aur Mein, which follows the travels of Shehzad and a villager and deals with issues like progress, poverty and patriotism in Pakistan.

In 2005, Roy was the recipient of the Sitara-i-Imtiaz,[5] which is one of the highest Civil Honors awarded in Pakistan for excellence in public service. For his organisation's rehabilitation work after the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, he was awarded the Sitara-e-Eisaar in 2006.[6] He was also selected to be a torch bearer for the 2008 Olympics.[7]


Early music career[edit]

Shehzad Roy released his debut album "Zindagi" in 1995. After only two years his second album "Darshan" was released in 1997. His third album "Teri soorat" was released in 1999. His fourth album "Rab Janey" and fifth album "Buri Baat hai" were released in 2002 and 2005 respectively.[8]

Qismat Apne Haath Mein (2008)[edit]

Shehzad's sixth album marked his transformation from a singer of romantic songs to songs that reflected social issues.[6] In 2008, Shehzad released his sixth album, Qismat Apne Haath Mein [translated to 'we make your own destiny'] in Karachi's juvenile jail to draw attention to the nearly 70,000 prisoners in Pakistan who had been awaiting trial for years.[9]

The first music video of the album, 'Laga Rahe' was a political comment on the situation in the country at the time. The call for the restoration of judiciary, increasing inflation and crime, price hike and the real politicking of corrupt politicians all featured in the video. The title track 'Qismat Apne Haath Mein' is about those less privileged in society and their state of suppression.[1]

Ventures in Bollywood[edit]

Akshay Kumar's film Khatta Meetha features a song by Shehzad on its soundtrack. The song, titled "Bullshit" is a mash-up of two of Roy's most popular songs from his 2008 album Qismat Apney Haat Mein – "Laga Reh" and "Qismat Apney Haat Mein".[10][11] Watch the video here.


On September 6, 2014 Shehzad realesed a patriotic song "Dhol Sipahiya" featuring Ayesha Omer. It was dedicated to all martyrs and survivors of the Pakistan army who took part in "War on terror. Most specifically for the martyrs of Operation Zarb -e- Azb. In September 2013, Shehzad performed with Guns N' Roses at a charitable event turned rock show, with performances from Guns N' Roses' Matt Sorum and Slash and Macy Gray in Los Angeles.[12] Part of the proceeds of this event went to Shehzad's organisation Zindagi Trust.[13] The event reached its climax when, Roy, Slash, Sorum and Gray did covers of The Beatles' Come Together and Radiohead's Creep.[14]

In 2007, Shehzad Roy came out with a musical collaboration between him and queen of Sufi soul, Abida Parveen. The song, titled Zindagi, was rooted on his latest venture – Equality in Education.[15][16]

In 2006, Shehzad Roy brought Canadian rockstar Bryan Adams to Pakistan for a charity concert, Rock for a Cause, to raise funds for Shehzad Roy's Zindagi Trust and to aid the victims of the tragic October 2005 earthquake.[17]

To promote cross-border cultural exchange with India, he sang a hit duet with Indian singer Sukhbir in 2005.[1]


  • Shehzad Roy recorded the official soundtrack, titled 'Bus Khail Nahin', for the first Quaid-e-Azam Inter-Provincial Games held in April 2016.


Wasu aur Mein[edit]

In 2011, Shehzad discovered Wasu Khan, a villager from Baluchistan, on YouTube.[18] In his video, Wasu raps about Pakistan's checkered political history. After seeing this, Shehzad tracked down Wasu and they collaborated to produce the hard-hitting song 'Apney Ulloo'. Packing a political punch, the video is a tale of the exploitation of a poor man. In the music, video Roy emulates a peon, a lawyer, a government secretary and a media man, all of whom exploit the common man, played by Wasu[19]

The song 'Apney Ulloo' started as a one-off collaboration but ended up taking a very different direction.[19] In 2012, Roy produced and hosted the 8-episode documentary series titled "Wasu aur Main".[20] The show followed the travels of Shehzad and Wasu Khan, a villager from Baluchistan. Brought together by their common passion for music, Shehzad and Wasu realise that they have a lot to learn from each other. Wasu's unique perspective on Pakistan's history and his shrewd observations force Shehzad to re-evaluate his own notions on progress, poverty and patriotism. As the show moves through several cities, the two of them try to understand what being a citizen of Pakistan means and realise what the future holds for them in this country. Watch all episodes here.

Chal Parha[edit]

In 2013, Shehzad produced and hosted the 22-episode documentary series titled "Chal Parha" [translated 'Let's Educate'].[21] In the show, Shehzad travelled on a Harley-Davidson bike across 80 cities in Pakistan and visited more than 200 public schools. In each of the 22 episodes, a new issue in public education was explored, for example, medium of instruction, curriculum, teachers, corporal punishment.[22]

The show highlighted both the obstacles in improving public schools and also the remarkable individuals who are committed to teaching and learning despite the collapsed system in which they work. An example of the impact of this show is that the third episode on corporal punishment (aired 15 February 2013) resulted in catalysing a decision by the government to finally ban corporal punishment in Pakistan.[23] Soon after the episode aired, Pakistan's provincial assemblies passed a resolution against corporal punishment and on 12 March 2013, the National Assembly unanimously passed a Bill making corporal punishment an offence.[24][25][26]

The show was intended to create awareness among Pakistani citizens for their basic right to quality education and also proposed solutions for government officials to resolve the various issues in public education. Chal Parha also showcased Pakistan's scenic beauty and diverse cultures.[22] Watch the episodes on Youtube (the first 3 episodes have English subtitles).

Philanthropic work[edit]

In 2002, Shehzad established Zindagi Trust, a non-governmental, non-profit organisation that strives to improve the quality of education available to the average Pakistani.[27]


In 2003, the Trust pioneered the concept of I-am-paid-to-learn, a non-profit that offers working children an alternative to child labour; makes them aware of their rights as children, as workers and as citizens. With nearly 1800 students in schools across Pakistan, a 2.2-year accelerated primary education course is taught to the children who spend most of their days working in car-repair shops & other general stores in Karachi, Lahore & Rawalpindi. The programme also sponsors the continuing education of top graduates who are encouraged to enroll in mainstream secondary schools.[28]

Public School Reform[edit]

A few years after Paid-to-learn was initiated, Shehzad realised that this program was not enough to educate the masses. Most children of school-going age in Pakistan (over 85%) only have access to government schools which are plagued with low teacher attendance, dilapidated buildings, poor facilities, a curriculum and teaching culture that starves creativity and encourages rote-learning, etc.[29]

The Trust's school reform project at the SMB Fatima Jinnah Government Girls School in Karachi has involved the following:[29]

  • Infrastructure Rehabilitation and Development. For a visual description of this effort, please view the project’s "Before and After" picture gallery.
  • Administrative Changes such as the merging the multiple schools running in one campus into one school under one administration, maintaining teacher and student records for attendance, performance, etc., disallowing private use of school grounds, formulating an admission policy
  • Academic Innovation and Planning such as the introduction of modern, thought-provoking textbooks in Urdu, English, Mathematics, teaching a video-based science curriculum in our well-equipped A/V Room, hiring academic coordinators for English, Mathematics and Science to plan syllabi with learning outcomes and timelines, design tests, monitor progress, observe and train teachers
  • Teacher Reform such as monitoring teacher attendance and evaluating teacher performance through regular teaching demos, lesson plan reviews as well as in-class monitoring by academic coordinators throughout the term.
  • Introduction of new learning modules such as art, chess, sports (netball, basketball, football, hockey, throwball, taekwondo, rowing, cricket), public speaking, life skills and abuse awareness

Reform Matric Board campaign[edit]

In 2016, Shehzad Roy launched an education campaign to reform the examination boards of Pakistan. The cornerstone of the campaign was a music video, titled Sirf Bandhi Hai Kamar, which depicted a mother transforming into a Kill Bill-type Samurai sword-wielding assassin; a teacher mutating into the Hulk; a father into a Maula Jutt lookalike and a maulvi into a Kung Fu fighter! simply on being cross-questioned by someone younger than them. The campaign points out the flaw in the way children are assessed in Pakistan and calls for reforms in the structure of the exams to test for application of concepts instead of the traditional focus on knowledge alone. [30]

Awards and honors[edit]

Shehzad Roy and Malala Yousafzai at the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony

On the occasion of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize to Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi from India, Shehzad performed at a joint Peace concert held on the evening of the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony on the 10th of December 2014 in Oslo, Norway. The concert was attended by dignitaries like the Royal King family members, Prime Minister of Norway, Former Pakistani Prime Ministers, Ministers, Members of the National Parliament and the Norwegian elite in the fields of knowledge and culture, along with Norwegian Pakistanis and Indians.[31]

In April, 2013, Shehzad was invited to Harvard University to talk about music, activism and his new documentary series, Chal Parha, in which the audience learnt about Roy’s journey to over 200 schools across Pakistan and the lessons learnt from this journey. Additionally, the viewers were educated about ways in which art and artists have struggled to bring social change throughout Pakistan’s history.[26][32]

In May 2013, Shehzad Roy performed in Rome on invitation from Pakistan’s Ambassador to Italy. The Pakistan Embassy in Rome in collaboration with Zètema Progetto Cultura, an agency of Rome’s Municipality, organised the concert in Villa Borghese, the second largest public park in Rome, and was part of La Notte dei Musei (The Night of Museums). The solo show presented Pakistan’s rich heritage — especially its music and poetry — to the Italian audience.[33]

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs awarded the 2009 Patricia Blunt Koldyke Fellowship on Social Entrepreneurship to Shehzad Roy to recognize his commitment to providing better learning opportunities in government-run schools, and honor his goal of encouraging Pakistan's youth "to value education and provide them with the knowledge and opportunities they need to realize a peaceful, democratic political future." As a Koldyke Fellow, Roy spent one week in Chicago exchanging ideas about education, philanthropy and nonprofit management with the city's civic, government, business and academic leaders. He delivered a major public address about education in Pakistan to a Chicago Council audience the evening of 29 Oct. 2009.[34]

Music Awards[edit]

Shehzad has won the following awards over the course of his career:

  • 1999 Ptv World Awards - Best Pop singer
  • 2003 1st Indus Music Awards- Best Male Artist
  • 2005 Indus Music Video Awards- Best Performer in a Video (Saali)
  • 2006 Indus Style Awards- Best Stylish Song
  • 2006 3rd Indus Music Awards- Best Pop Song (Saali)
  • 2006 3rd Indus Music Awards- Best patriotic song (Hum Aik Hain)
  • 2008 Mtv Style Awards- Best video (laga reh)
  • 2009 Mtv Music Awards- Best lyrics (laga reh), Best pop song (laga reh)
  • 8th Lux Style Awards- Best album (Qismat Apne Haath Mein), Best video (laga reh)
  • 2013 1st Hum TV Awards- Best solo artist


External links[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Emanuel Sarfraz, "Roy's loud and clear political message clicks", The Nation, 28 July 2008
  2. ^ "Pakistani pop star uses music to educate". Chicago Tribune. 13 November 2009. Retrieved 15 February 2013. 
  3. ^ "Zindagi trust". 
  4. ^ "Profile: Shehzad Roy". Retrieved 15 February 2013. 
  5. ^ "KARACHI: 22 get Sitara-e-Imtiaz, Pride of Performance", DAWN, 24 March 2005
  6. ^ a b Shanaz Ramzi, "Interview: No ordinary singer", DAWN, 2 September 2013
  7. ^ "Pakistan torchbearers for Olympics named", DAWN, 9 January 2008
  8. ^ "Discography", Shehzad Roy website
  9. ^ "‘Qismat Apnay Haath Mein’ launched", The News, 26 July 2008
  10. ^ " A Bollywood version of ‘Laga Reh’", The Express Tribune, 14 July 2010
  11. ^ "Roy's politically charged Pakistani pop". The World. 15 November 2010. Retrieved 31 October 2013. 
  12. ^ Steve Baltin, "Matt Sorum Plans Solo LP, L.A. Benefit With Slash", Rolling Stone Magazine, 10 September 2013
  13. ^ Alex Stedman, "Jane Lynch Gets Serenaded at Peace Through Music Gala", Variety, 16 September 2013
  14. ^ Shahzeb Shaikh, "Spotlight: Slash and burn", DAWN, 22 September 2013
  15. ^ " Hotstepper of the Week: Shehzad Roy", Instep Magazine, 29 July 2007
  16. ^ Sonya Rehman, " Shehzad Roy and Abida Parveen Collaborate for a Cause", Instep Magazine, 19 July 2007
  17. ^ Faisal Quraishi, "KARACHI: Bryan Adams arrives in Karachi", DAWN, 30 January 2006
  18. ^ "Owning Apnay Ullo", DAWN InPaper Magazine, 15 January 2012
  19. ^ a b "I want to reform through policy and my music.- Shehzad Roy", Instep Magazine, 5 February 2012
  20. ^ Muniba Kamal, "A time for introspection", Instep Magazine, May 2012
  21. ^ "First person: Lessons on wheels", DAWN, 16 February 2013
  22. ^ a b "Chal Parha", Geo TV
  23. ^ Instep Desk, "Why rock the vote when you can rock the system?", Instep Magazine (The News), March 2013
  24. ^ "Bill prohibiting corporal punishment of children approved", The News, 12 March 2013
  25. ^ Zofeen T. Ebrahim, "Are the days of 'Maula Bux' numbered?", DAWN, 18 March 2013
  26. ^ a b Sonya Rehman, "Shehzad Roy: Fighting for Change in Pakistani Education", The Diplomat, 16 May 2013
  27. ^ "Zindagi Trust Team", Zindagi Trust Website
  28. ^ "Paid to Learn Overview", Zindagi Trust Website
  29. ^ a b "School Reform Overview", Zindagi Trust website
  30. ^ "Spotlight: Sirf Bandhi Hai Kamar: Where the question is the answer", DAWN Sunday Magazine, 17 July 2016
  31. ^ Wasim Riaz, "Pakistansk-indisk Nobel-feiring i Oslo", osloby, 13 Nov 2014
  32. ^ Name of author, " Pakistani music icon Shehzad Roy visits Harvard", DAWN, 26 April 2013
  33. ^ "Soundcheck: When Roy’s in Rome…", DAWN InPaper Magazine, 26 May 2013
  34. ^ Naazish YarKhan, "Shehzad Roy, Pakistani Pop Star and Humanitarian, Wins Chicago Council Award", Huffington Post, 5 August 2009