Catching Up with Singer, Songwriter Sanya Shahzad

Since breaking into the music scene through Nescafe Basement 4, Sanya Shahzad - a highly talented singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist - is soaring high and rightly so. Being one of the finest young talents, Sanya is creating her own identity in the world of music with her sophisticated songwriting and powerful voice. She has featured in two of the most popular shows in the country in the likes of Nescafe Basement and Levis Live where she left everyone spellbound with her skills.

Sanya Shahzad is a Pakistani singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. Picture credits: Zulqarnain Ali.

Currently studying film in Royal Holloway, University of London, Sanya is not as active as she wanted to be but it hasn't had any impact on her popularity. Following her return to the country, she has been picking up gigs in various cities, crooning her sultry acoustic sound all over the country.

In this interview, Sanya talks about why she moved to London, her upcoming EP, future plans, and a lot more.

1. How did your musical journey start and how have you evolved as a musician? 

Music has always been with me. I was always singing, and was always intrigued by music. I also showed signs of good rhythm through dance routines in school. My mom owned a piano which I eventually got my hands onto! Never wanted to stop.

Sanya Shahzad's Biography 

2. You were a part of Love Me Again in Nescafe Basement that was also appreciated by John Newman himself. While working on that song, did you guys expect it would get such a huge response? 

I personally did not! I know Zulfi bhai had a vision with this particular song, and I just trusted him with it, and it worked out well!

3. Today particularly, when music has been tied to tragedy, why is it so important to make sure for people to come together through music?

I can say the cliché thing that everyone says, which is “Music has no boundaries”. It has a weird way of reaching people, and I feel that is absolutely beautiful. Anything that spreads love is great.

4. You are very vocal on social issues and do not hesitate in sharing your views in loud clear words. Do you wish to use music as a medium to talk about social issues or are you happy to express yourself on the social media only?  

YES! Definitely, I feel music is a very effective tool to get a message across to mass audiences. A video of a girl singing “It sure is a scary time for boys” on her ukulele got so much attention and a message across about the problems of misogyny and patriarchal society pressures on women.

5. Your performance on Levis Live was widely appreciated by the audience and a lot of people wanted you to appear on the latest season of Nescafe Basement. Can we expect some live performances in the near future? 

Due to me being away from Pakistan for most of the time, it’s hard for me to guarantee such things. But I’m always aiming to do more stuff like that, and I do see something coming up in the near future!

Sanya Shahzad is a Pakistani singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. Picture credits: Zulqarnain Ali.

6. Your music is mostly in English. Considering the literacy rate in Pakistan, don’t you think it would restrict the outreach of your music in the country? 

It definitely does. But I wouldn’t say it’s cause of the literacy rate of Pakistan. I feel it’s more related to the cultural aspect. A lot of people in Pakistan appreciate traditional Pakistani Music more than other genres.

7. Do you wish to sing in regional languages? If yes, which ones? 

As much as love and appreciate all of our cultural music, I don’t think I’ve ever felt a connection to singing it. Music has always been super personal to me, so I sing English because it speaks the most to me.

8.What are the best and worst things of being Sanya Shahzad? 

Um, a lot! Haha, I am at a constant war with myself. I am a very emotional person, who tends to get hurt too often, too easily, and too intensely. But it’s also the reason for my ability to empathise, love, and care for a lot! My weaknesses are also my strengths. And though I might fall a lot due to it, I love how I get back up no matter what.

9. Do you intend to release a full album or an EP? 

An EP consisting of 6 songs is underway! It’s called ‘When Blue Things Meet’ and it is my literal heart and soul. All the songs I write are so very important to me, and I can not wait to release it!

10. In Pakistan, there’s a common perception that music is for free. What can be done to make people pay for it? How can a musician build the interest of their fans to actually pay for music and not download it?

I believe it’s because of a lack of understanding and acceptance that making music takes a lot of time, money, and effort. Once people realise that making music is a career path, they’ll understand that they need to pay for the entertainment they’re receiving, just like they pay for Netflix. People spend time and money perfecting their art, so the least one can do is respect it and pay for the product they’re receiving. The easiest way to do that is listening to your favourite artists via streaming platforms.

11. Why did you choose film as a subject? 

I have a passion for creating art. Telling a story or sparking an emotion through moving pictures has it’s own charm, and it brings me joy. If I’m gonna spends years learning something, it would be this.

12. Can you name 3 musical inspirations of yours from Pakistan? 

I never really listened to a lot Pakistani music, but Strings has some really good music that I personally enjoy, and their live performances never fail to amaze me. Other than that, Zulfi bhai has inspired me a lot with his love for music, and his belief in upcoming artists. Lastly, Bayaan’s music is especially beautiful! Love all three, and they make me want to do more as a musician, in my own way!

You may also like: Sanya Shahzad - Emerging as the Next Big Female Singer in Pakistan

13.What do you wish to achieve as a musician in the next 5-10 years? 

The ultimate goal, whether I achieve it in 5-10 years, or later, is for people who listen to my songs to find some sort of comfort in it. Music has been with me through thick and thin. Through the happy moments, and the sad. I only wish that I can contribute to helping someone get what they want through my music, something they can turn to when they need.

14. If you have the chance to change one thing about the music industry of Pakistan, what would it be? 

Acceptance! Instead of nit picking and hating, celebrate people’s differences. Celebrate art, celebrate love, celebrate the diversity within Pakistan rather than wishing everyone was the same. I really wish people learn to accept music for what it is, rather than asking the artist to change to their liking.

15. As a musician, how do you wish to explore the versatility in you? What genres do you wish to sing? 

I’ve always been a sucker for indie ballads when it comes to singing. But I have a lot of alternative rock influence, and a lot of pop influence. You never know what I might go towards. The possibilities are endless.

Sanya Shahzad is a Pakistani singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. Picture credits: Mawa Durrani

16. What makes you happy?

Kindness. Not on-the-surface, but true kindness. Humanity. Empathy. Understanding. Love.

17. What makes you sad? 

Lack of love and acceptance. And a looooootttttttt of other things too haha.

18. Any specific concert you enjoyed playing the most at? 

I recently had a meet and greet in Islamabad at ChaiLogue. Though it was not a concert, it was probably the most wholesome experience I’ve had. The positive energy in that room was everything to me.

19. If you were a music instrument, which one would you be and why? 

Cello! Absolutely love that instrument!

20. Please give a small message for your fans. 

I am forever grateful for all the love and support that you have given me. Thank you for appreciating me and my music. Fight your fears and achieve your dreams head-on. There’s nothing you can’t do, I promise.