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About Shehzad Roy

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Shehzad Roy (Urdu: شہزاد روئے) is a singer and humanitarian from Karachi, Pakistan. With five hit albums under his belt, including the 2008 Qismat Apney Haath Mein (Fate Lies in One’s Own Hands), he is also the president and founder of Zindagi Trust, a non-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 the Sitara-e-Eisaar. He was also selected to be a torch bearer for the 2008 Olympic Torch relay as the pride of Pakistan. Recently, Roy took the city of Chicago by storm when he was awarded the 2008 Patricia Blunt Koldyke Fellowship award for excellence in social entrepreneurship.


Biography

Roy was born in an Ismaili Muslim family in Karachi, Pakistan. He made his debut in music in 1995 with his first album Zindagi. At the time, he was only in grade 11. Even though he went on to get a Bachelors in Commerce, it was clear to him that music was going to be his career. From a young age, he was struck by the huge class divide in Pakistan's society. When his cousins would visit from overseas, they would ask him why the street children were not in school studying. Roy of course did not have an answer. It pained him to see these young children who had no future and who were never going to break free of poverty. Determined to help these children, he established a non- government organization, Zindagi Trust, in 2002. The organization's objective was to provide quality education to the underprivileged children of Pakistan.


Zindagi Trust

Roy has dedicated his life to the establishment of Zindagi Trust (founded in 2002), the non-for-profit charity helping the underprivileged children of Pakistan. He uses the proceeds from his concerts to fund the trust's operations.

10.5 million children in Pakistan are currently employed in factories, cottage industries, or on the streets as vendors to support their families and are deprived of education. At the age of 25, in 2002, Roy pioneered the concept of I-am-paid-to-learn that provides child laborers with monetary compensation for attending Zindagi Trust educational units. The vocational and practical teaching methods along with incentives for children to attend make it a viable solution to Pakistan's urban illiteracy. Roy has established 35 educational units with 3000 children being educated in the most impoverished regions of Pakistan.

Even though the program was a great success, Roy realized that the “I am paid to learn” initiative was not enough to educate the masses. Of the almost 28 million kids that are in school, nearly 19 million, or two-thirds, attend public schools. Unfortunately, the public schooling system in Pakistan has completely collapsed. The school culture, from kindergarten to grade 10, has become one of rote learning, cheating and many other vices. Currently, all public schools have to use government textbooks that are several decades old. The books are dull, with unattractive layouts, and encourage memorization. So even after students spend 10 years in a public school, they have no critical thinking skills and often can not even write a letter in proper Urdu, their own mother tongue.

“Everyone is worried about the millions of children not going to school”, Roy says, “but I'm just as worried about the millions of children who are going to public schools!” In 2006, Roy became an advocate for quality government education for all in Pakistan. Zindagi Trust, along with Bookgroup, attained management of SMB Fatima Jinnah Girls Government School in Karachi, from the government. Roy’s objective was to turn around this public school into a model school and then push the government to replicate it in all public schools of Pakistan.

Zindagi Trust started with civil works. Even though this public school was termed as one of the city's "best", it was in an appalling condition. The school grounds were being rented out in the evenings for private parties and other functions. The food remains would, in turn, attract dogs and rodents. In fact, when the trust went for its initial inspection, they found a decaying dog body in the kindergarten room. The school water lines were mixed up with the sewage line. There were heaps and heaps of garbage and some walls were on the verge of collapse. Roy not only renovated the existing structure but also went on to add more facilities such as a library, cafeteria, computer lab, health room, audio-visual room etc, that did not exist before. You can see the "before" and "after" pictures of the school

Roy was criticized for trying to bring Pakistan's outdated school syllabus into the 21st century: “Trying to alter the mind-set of the people is the most grueling task,” he says, “and therefore we have to battle with forces that are too complacent with the status quo.” For the first time in the history of Pakistan, Zindagi Trust replaced these out-dated government textbooks with thought- provoking and imaginative textbooks. Modern learning modules were introduced such as art, photography, rollerblading, rowing to nurture individual talent. These students are now participating in sports and art competitions and are winning against top private schools.

The public school teachers have drastically improved their performance. The same teachers who came late every day are now well prepared for class and are taking an interest in their students' performance. Significant turnaround has been seen in students' test results and their critical thinking skills. The school's 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.

Zindagi Trust has set a precedent for how a public school should function. In 2010, their aim is to set up a similar model in other Pakistani provinces and achieve a critical mass that will enable them to pressurize the government into replicating this model in all public schools.


Music career

As Roys’s humanitarian reach grew, so did the tone of his songs. He went from mainly singing romantic songs to songs that reflected social issues. In 2007, Shehzad Roy came out with a musical collaboration between him and queen of Sufi soul, Abida Parveen. Previously , she has never collaborated with any other musician on any project and this is also her first proper music video to date.
The song, titled Zindagi, was rooted on his latest venture — Equality in Education. Shehzad Roy isn’t the primary vocalist, leaving that to Abida, and prefers to sing only the title throughout the composition: Aao de dein inhein zindagi (Let’s give them life). According to Roy, she added an amazing spiritual element to the song.

In 2008 Roy came out with a bang with the release of his 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, most of whom have spent many years in jail just waiting on their court hearing.

In order to promote cross-border cultural exchange with India, he sang a hit duet with Indian singer Sukhbir in 2005. 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 efforts in education. Adams also 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 in Pakistan.


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.

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, is a stark commentary on the way our nation is run, 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.


Albums

* Zindagi (1995)
* Darshan (1997)
* Teri Soorat (1999)
* Rab Jaanay (2002)
* Buri Baat Hai (2005)
* Qismat Apney Haath Mein (2008)
* Khatta Meetha OST (2010)


Awards & recognitions

* 1999 Ptv World Awards- Best Pop singer
* 2003 1st Indus Music Awards- Best Male Artist
* 2004 Tamgha-e-Imtiaz
* 2005 Indus Music Video Awards- Best Performer in a Video (Saali)
* 2006 Sitara-e-Eisaar
* 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 Torch Bearer for 2008 Beijing Olympics
* 2008 Mtv Style Awards- Best video (laga reh)
* 2009 Mtv Music Awards- Best lyrics (laga reh), Best pop song (laga reh)
* 2009 Patricia Blunt Koldyke Fellow
* 2009 Lux Style Awards- Best album (Qismat Apne Haath Mein), Best video (laga reh)

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