Shehzad Roy

Shehzad Roy (Urdu: شہزاد رائے) is pop singer and humanitarian from Karachi, Pakistan. Since his first album debuted in 1995, with a revolutionary approach to fusing his lyrics with music of different genres, he has been a successful and popular singer in Pakistan. He says that, “the authenticity of the message in a song produces meaningful music.”

With five hit albums under his belt, including the 2008 ‘Qismat App Kay Haath Main Hai,’ (Fate Lies in One’s Own Hands) he is also the President and founder of Zindagi Trust, a non-for-profit charitable organization, that seeks to educate the underprivileged children of Pakistan. In June 2004, Roy was honored as one of the youngest ever recipient of the Tamgha-e-Imtiaz, which is one of the highest Civil Honors awarded in Pakistan for excellence in serving humanity. For his organization’s earthquake rehabilitation in Kashmir, he was awarded with the Sitara-e-Eisaar.

He was also selected to be a torch bearer for the 2008 Olympic Torch relay as the pride of Pakistan.


Roy was born on February 16, 1977 in Karachi His father Kabir Roy is a successful businessman and his mother Nazli Qamar is a housewife. His older sister is married and resides in the US. When in 5th grade, Roy moved with his family to the USA and lived there for several years. Even at that tender age, he was struck by the discrepancy between quality public schools in America and Pakistan. He yearned to make a difference in his native country. Roy came back and settled in Karachi, where after finishing his Bachelors his passion for music launched his successful career and he became a performer and musician.

In 2002 he established a charitable foundation-Zindagi Trust- to alleviate the condition of working children that strayed on the streets of urban Pakistan. In 2006 he was fortunate enough to pay homage to his faith, by performing Umrah with his manager Arif Roy and guitarist Imran Akhoond. Roy spends his time recording music and fundraising for his Trust. He uses the proceeds from his concerts to support Zindagi Trust.

Before tying the knot with Ms Salma, Roy fell madly in love with a pathan Pakistani girl Samar Adam. Despite Samar being in another relationship, Roy forced Samar into having a relationship with him. This secret affair was revealed to all of Roy and Samar's circle of friends at a birthday party by Roy's friends. Humiliated, Samar left Pakistan to the UK to study a LLM in law. Still Roy persisted with Samar and travelled to the UK many times in attempts to win her heart. After 6 months, the pressure on Samar resulted in her mental breakdown and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital.

Zindagi Trust

Roy has dedicated his life to the establishment of Zindagi Trust, the non-for-profit charity helping impoverished and uneducated children of Pakistan. Roy says, “Statistics show than 10.5 million children under the age of 15 in Pakistan are currently employed in factories, cottage industries, on the streets as vendors, in menial jobs in order to support their families, deprived of childhood and education.” Seeing vagrant children on the street, not going to school he says was heartbreaking for him and led to the formation of the 501(c)3 organization in 2002.
With over 2800 children being educated with 34 operational schools currently open across Pakistan, Zindagi Trust’s core mission is to provide education and vocational skills to the working children of Pakistan and making them productive future citizens. He also strives to make his charitable venture a self-sustaining model that is dynamic and continually evolving to match the progress of modern education.

His Trust pioneered the concept of ‘I-am-paid-to-learn’ geared towards urban working children that provides them with monetary compensation for going to school. The fixed stipend of Rs 20 (25 cents) daily can make a significant change in the life of a children bound by labor. And the unique teaching methods along with incentives for children to attend make it a successful solution to Pakistan’s illiteracy problem.

However Roy did not stop there and now has launched an ambitious project to reform the standard of Government schools in Pakistan, “Quality education is every citizen’s right and its responsibility lies with the state. A paradigm shift is required in the mindset of state authorities, the people and the education system to save our future generations from destruction,” he states.
Zindagi Trust received authorization from the Sindh Education Department of Pakistan to manage the Fatima Jinnah Govt. Girls School with 2600 students and 140 school teachers. Zindagi Trust’s administration successfully overhauled the physical infrastructure, academics, educational methodology and quality of books. Significant turnaround has been seen in students’ test results and improving their critical thinking skills. Zindagi Trust was able to implement outstanding architectural renovations that include a fully functional library, gym, science and computer lab. The amelioration of the school has helped influence the Sindh Government to replicate this model on a larger scale. Its success has led many in Pakistan to speculate that the future of Pakistan lies in the capable hands of the young breed of philanthropists like Roy.

Music Career

As Roys’s humanitarian reach grew, so did the tone of his songs. He went from mainly singing bubble-gum pop romantic songs to a socio-political defiant album, ‘Qismat Apnay Haat Mein,’ (Fate Lies in One’s Own Hands) that he launched at the Karachi Juvenile Prison at Central Jail, in July 2008. He underscored the need to rehabilitate Pakistan’s justice system that ignores the pitiable conditions of many prisoners

To promote cultural awareness through music, Shehzad Roy brought Bryan Adams to Pakistan for a charity concert to aid the victims of the tragic October 2005 earthquake. Bryan Adams commended Shehzad Roy for his ‘I Am Paid To Learn’ campaign. In order to promote cross-border cultural exchange with India, he sang a hit duet with Indian singer Sukhbir.

Something more than musicIn 2007 Shehzad Roy had been known to have a knack for working on projects that create somewhat of a bang. His latest offering came in the form of a musical collaboration between him and queen of Sufi soul, Abida Parveen, rooted on his latest venture — Equality in Education.Roy spoke about how he approached Abida for lending her vocals to the song after he had composed the music for it. When it first begins, the song seems to be somewhat of an instrumental with soft guitar riffs that build up momentum gradually, however, not too much. Shehzad Roy isn’t the primary vocalist, leaving that to Abida, and prefers to sing only the title throughout the composition: Aao de dein inhain zindagi (Let’s give them life).
Abida apa, as Shehzad is prone to calling her, listened to the composition and consented to sing for the song. Previously before this, she has never collaborated with any other musician on any project and this is also her first proper music video to date. The introduction of her vocals comes as a burst of energy into Aao De Dein Inhain Zindagi and the overall effect may be considered to be somewhat brilliant. According to Roy, she’s added an amazing spiritual element to the song.He also spoke about a conversation between him and Bryan Adams during the latter’s last visit to Pakistan, in which Adams pointed out that one need not look for inspiration elsewhere when it came to material for music, as there was so much to write and sing about right here.
Directed by Sohaib, the Aao De Dein Inhain Zindagi video is simply done with Roy in front of a chalk board and Abida somewhere near him, in other frames books, children and an abacus also make their appearance in the midst of text scrolling across the screen with messages in them. The video is expected to be released on the airwaves shortly.

But this is not the only thing that Shehzad Roy has up his sleeve as according to him the heir to the English throne, Prince Charles, has offered to send representatives from the Volunteer Service Overseas (VSO) to help train teachers working for Zindagi Trust as well. A workable plan is being formulated currently to help get this in process. Also joining in the ZT team is Sami Mustafa, the principle of the Centre of Advanced Studies (CAS) in Karachi. Roy acknowledges his contribution and is pretty excited about having him on board.

Shehzad speaks very strongly about education and how it can help to not only change a person's life but also their overall civic sense. At the end of it all, it can be said that he not only has the vision but also the focus, determination and most importantly, the heart, to try and realise it. And this, his latest collaboration with Abida Parveen might just be a little peek into how he plans to go about it.

Qismet Apnay Haath Mein In 2008

While too many musicians in Pakistan seem content to skirt over issues of socio-political importance, treading the same dregs of human emotion again and again. However, after the boisterous Saali, Shehzad Roy has decided to pen an album of tracks that has more than its fair share of swipes at the current elites in charge of the nation (peppered, of course, in between the usual fare of radio-friendly ballads and songs leering over the edge with catchy — if not cheesy — riffs).
Qismet Apnay Haath Mein has generated a substantial amount of hype and fanfare for the seemingly controversial material embedded within the album. Of the songs on the album, Laga Reh, has been prompted to the fore with its polemic nature. It starts off with Roy going “Mein jab dus saal ka tha, toh maine nine o’clock news par suna kay Pakistan tareekh kay aik nazuk morh se guzar raha hai.” One rather jumpy guitar riff later, he pronounces, “Mein phir 20 saal ka huwa, maine phir nine o’clock news par suna kay Pakistan tareekh kay aik nazuk morh se guzar raha hai.” A stark commentary on the way our nation is run is juxtaposed here, in a rather surreal manner, with the usual Shehzad Roy manner of song; lots of jovial guitar riffs running around coupled with bhangra-esque percussion.

Shehzad Roy’s method of tackling issues of political and social importance in his music differs however from those of, say, Rage Against the Machine. Surprisingly, his commentary is deft and full of sarcastic quips, rather than an outright attack on the institutions in our country. This is evidenced in the other significant politically-charged track on the album, the title track, Qismet Apnay Haath Mein. Throughout the album Roy is lyrically in fine form, chucking interesting turns of phrase left, right and centre with aplomb.
Musically, the album is rather scattershot. On occasions, it has some wonderful moments of balladry and sheer hook-laden pop, with wonderful melodies floating all over the songs (post chorus in Qismet Apnay Haath Mein). There’s also some fantastic guitar work on the album; as mellow and emotive as it is often enamored with ‘funk.’ Janay Kahan opens up with a brilliant harmonised riff that settles easily into the song, while Aankhen has guitar work that at times acutely resembles Incubus.