MORRISBURG – Sandra Whitworth, president of the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage, describes this performer as “an incredible show person” and a “consummate entertainer.” Not only is renowned singer Shakura S’Aida an extraordinary ‘blues’ singer, blessed with a terrific, “scorching” voice and dynamic stage presence, she is a talented actor who has performed in shows as diverse as Designated Survivor, Schitt’s Creek and Titans.
Saturday, April 23, at 7 p.m. Shakura S’Aida is coming to Upper Canada Playhouse for one terrific concert.
Shakura first performed in this area in 2014 in a SLAS Christmas themed show. She has also wowed crowds at the Stone Crop Acres Winery. To some extent, then, her concert in Morrisburg April 23, will be like a “mini homecoming.” “I really look forward to coming back to the SLAS, to a new beginning, as we come into a new spring,” Shakura said, during an interview with The Leader. “What I remember about audiences here is how receptive and welcoming they are. We’ve shared great laughter in the past, and I hope to experience that again.”
During the challenges of COVID shutdowns, Shakura explained that she made a conscious decision “not to think about tomorrow, but to take everything day by day, doing what I needed to keep going.” She described how she created what she called a “safe room,” a place she could zoom with other artists and musicians, where “we could meet and be comfortable, talking about our lives and our music, really about anything. That safe room became an important place for working through what was happening all around me.”
In a career that has spanned nearly 40 years, Shakura has thrilled audiences from North America to Dubai, from Australia to Rwanda. Among her long list of awards, she was also the 2020 Ambassadrice du Sierre Blues Festival and the 2019 Maple Blues Award Nominee: Female Vocalist.
Interestingly, however, Shakura explained that she actually considers herself a “roots artist, someone whose music is rooted in the blues and in African American music. What I am passionate about is bringing that unique sound, created out of my life journey, forward. My music has its origins in North and South Carolina, in New York City, in my experiences in life. I want to bring those parts of me, of my past, of my roots into my music.”
She feels that she is able to maintain her passion for music, for performing, because “I keep shifting. I focus on what I want to do right now, right in this moment in time. I try not to carry expectations forward, because, really, what I wanted to do at 20 is not what I want to do now. Things have to shift, and as an artist, you’ve got to stay aware of your surroundings: when I am aware of who I am in this very moment, well, that is when I am most passionate.”
Over the past two years, in her original music, one of Shakura’s developing themes has been that of “community,” of finding your community and connecting with it. “And of course,” she explained, “community can mean so many things: my black community, my family community, my performing community, my neighbourhood community. Ultimately this theme has led me to a discovery about love. If we love our community, we can nurture and support it. My songs, I think, are a reflection of love and community, of being strong, even when things aren’t going well, even when there is violence, both physical and emotional. Music recognizes those experiences.”
With the world opening up again, Shakura also has a new album coming out this summer, “my first in 10 years. Of course,” she laughed, “it was originally scheduled for earlier, but COVID stepped in and halted that. Now I think that maybe it was a blessing, since we were really able to make this new album absolutely ‘perfect!’”
She has also been invited to curate the headline show on July 7, of the Vancouver Island Music Festival. Shakura is incredibly excited to be show-casing this incredible group of amazing women from the blues community for the Festival. “HER Majesty is made up of women from every kind of background, but beautiful and unbelievably talented musicians and singers. It is an all star group: I am hoping that I may be able to bring HER Majesty to other venues in Canada.”
And finally, two outstanding performers will be joining the amazing Shakura S’Aida on stage at her April 23 Morrisburg concert. “Brook Blackburn plays the guitar, Roger Williams plays the bass. And me?” Shakura S’Aida laughed. “I play the vocal. For after all, the voice is an instrument too.”