The trill in her voice

February 18, 2024

Meet Shanzay Kamal, the young Peshawari artist who dreams of healing the city with her voice

The trill in her voice


he minority communities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including its Hindu, Sikh, Parsi and Christian residents have played a pivotal role in the uplift of the country in various fields including art, music and literature.

Over the previous decades, Victoria Harrison sisters, Jamil Jacob, ST Sunny, Dr Dennis Isaac, Anita Campher and Younas Sabir have stood out in more ways than one. Be it music, playwriting or poetry, the contributions of these artists cannot be overlooked. Artist Sitara Younas has carved out a niche for herself as the most sought-after Pashto folk singer. She hails from a Punjabi family but has sung many songs in Pashto.

However, the current environment in KP is not favourable for art and cultural activities. As a result, female artists have to struggle hard to find a place for themselves. The good thing is that the performers wholeheartedly work to promote visual and performing arts in a city still scarred from militancy.

Among the rising local artists, Shanzay Kamal aspires to provide a healing touch with her voice. She is a talented singer.

“I have dreams and ideas but no resources. Peshawar is a dream city. Its people love cultural diversity. This city needs healing. It has suffered brutal terror and militancy for several decades,” says Kamal.

Shanzay Kamal is a rising rock pop star belonging to the Christian community. She dreams of becoming a professional singer. Born with a penchant for singing and a velvety voice, she soon became her teacher’s favourite in the school choir.

Kamal did her matriculation from Presentation High School. She then completed her bachelor’s in English literature from Edwards College, Peshawar.

During her studies at Edwards College, Shanzay Kamal became the first-ever female president of the Edwards College Music Society.

“The city’s bruised face is in dire need of healing,” observes the young artist, adding, “…there is a need to revive Peshawar’s glorious traditions. The youth need to believe in their strength.” 

“Initially, my family was not in favour of my singing. At the first annual music event of the college, the organisers dropped my name from the list of scheduled performers. However, my mom encouraged me and some of my college friends supported me. I decided to listen to my heart. Next year, I went and overwhelmed the stage,” Shanzay recounts.

Despacito, a popular Spanish number, helped Shanzay Kamal scale the height of success. For this, she gives credit to her mother, teachers and her college friends.

Her first ideal in music was Michael Jackson. She has since been drenched in rock-pop and Sufi music which she says is close to her heart.

Shanzay Kamal is also interested in modeling, acting and hosting. However, she realises that singing is her true forte. She has been part of several projects over the last six years. She has a mastery over Punjabi, Urdu, Pashto and English.

“My personal choice is rock-pop Sufi; I feel at ease with it. But, occasionally, I sing local remixes. I don’t have a tutor. I have not learnt the basics of conventional music from any ustad. Yet, I have a natural propensity for music. I use social media to market my voice,” she says.

Being the sole breadwinner of her family, Shanzay is preoccupied these days. She hopes to bring out an album and carry on the musical legacy of her community.

“My dad died three years ago leaving me with lots of problems but my dream for a music career has remained undented. I recently quit a teaching job. Once finances get sorted and I get a government job, I plan on launching an album,” she says.

“The city’s bruised face is in dire need of healing,” says the young artist, adding, “…there is a need to revive Peshawar’s glorious traditions. The youth need to believe in their strength.”

“There is no dearth of potential in our youth. Steps should be taken to encourage them. Women should be given priority in access to quality education and all forms of art,” says Kamal.

The writer is a Peshawar-based journalist. He mostly writes on art, culture, education, youth and minorities. He tweets @Shinwar-9

The trill in her voice