Shayna Cram, a young diplomat at US Consulate General in Peshawar.–Photo by Dawn.

PESHAWAR: The song starts with guitar and then Rabab, coupled with a melodious voice. It is a Pashto song but the accent is American. Sta arman sa day jenai (Girl what do you wish for). It captivates the listeners and forces them to keep it listening because it is a song full of hope.

Mustaqbil day rokhana day (Your future is bright).

Aya da day sta pa las kay day ya awaz day band shway day (Whether it is in your hand or your voice is suppressed). The heartening voice sings.

Jahan kay har sa yo shan na di (It is not same everywhere in the world).

No koshish ba jari osatay (So continue your struggle).

Moong yo zai kar kawalay shoo (We can work together).

The voice beckons.

Jenako omed satay (Girls stay hopeful).

Saba ba badloon rashi (Change will come).

Bahimmat ao mazboot jenako (Courageous and strong girls).

Zama himayat ta sara day (I support you).

Watan da dasay jang na stray day (The country is tired of this war).

Os aman charta day (where is peace?).

Yarega ma jenai (O girl don’t be scared).

sta taqdeer pa las kay day (Your destiny is in your hands).

Jenako omed satay (Girls stay hopeful).

Saba ba badloon rashi (Change will come).

The voice that calls upon girls to stay hopeful and take destiny in their hands, without fear, for a bright future is of Shayna Cram, a young American singer. It is her Pashto debut song.

She is a public diplomacy officer in the US Consulate General in Peshawar and has been working here since July this year. Music is her hobby and her ability to sing in different languages including Pashto makes her special among the diplomatic staff at the consulate.

When a teenager from Swat Malala Yousufzai was shot at by Taliban for raising voice for her basic right to education, the entire world was shocked but very few had the ability to express what they felt about this tragic incident. Shayna expressed what she felt about this tragic incident in this song.

“I heard she (Malala) was shot at and I wanted to go and see her as she was in a hospital not far from the consulate. It was not possible for us to see her,” Shayna says.

“Knowing what she stood for and what had happened to her for standing up for girls’ education, it was a powerful statement she made by going to school in the face of danger. In America we were touched very deeply what happened to her,” she adds.

“It (event) made me feel like I should write something to encourage all girls to understand we are there to support them to get education and follow their dreams and ambitions. It is something that I felt very deeply about,” she tells Dawn.

Shayna says that she always feels that speaking with someone in their own language is the best way because it reaches their heart. However, she is aware that since she is a US diplomat, there are people who have and might criticise her song as “propaganda” but she says:  “It was me coming from my heart for girls of Pakistan.”

She adds that it was definitely from her heart as no one asked her to write it.

She has been always inspired by her surroundings to write songs irrespective of language or any other barriers. When she lived in a village miles away from capital of Congo in West Africa, she played guitar and wrote songs about issues like HIV/Aids.

“It was in West Africa when I first got into writing my own songs. I wrote a song in Portuguese first,” says Shayna, who can speak five languages including English, Pashto, French, Portuguese and Spanish. She has written and sung songs in Pashto, Portuguese and French so far.

When asked whether traditional diplomacy worked better or music could achieve more, she opined that she felt it was just a different way of diplomacy or people to people contact.

Reaching someone directly is a different way of relating to people and music does it as one can reach out to people at an emotional level throug it, she says.

“It is the way I feel,” Shayna says. She doesn’t ignore the fact that people have different tastes in music but she feels that she has expressed and contacted directly to the Pashto-speaking people whom she might not even have met in actual life.

Someone, who might be doing daily work and listening to radio, might listen to her song and understand what she feels, she says.

After her debut song in Pashto, she has started working on more Pashto songs in collaboration with other artists. She is also looking into a proposal to sing songs in other languages like Urdu, Sindhi and Balochi.

But since she is proficient in Pashto, she is doing more Pashto song and likes to listen to Pashto music in spare time.

“My friends at home (USA) were amazed. They are honoured that I have taken the time to show our respect to Pakhtun culture and Pakistan,” she says.



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