Born in Brooklyn, New York. Raised in Switzerland. A long-time Canadian who lives in Toronto. Released by a German record company, and with a CD produced by a major American producer.
That’s Shakura S’Aida, an international artist whose involvement in the Canadian music scene has been ongoing for the past 20 years, enriching the jazz, blues and classic R&B communities with her soulful voice, enthusiastic personality and commitment to music as an art form.
Whether she’s speaking Swiss-German, French or English, Shakura instantly connects with her audience — and at the same time richly demonstrates the multiculturalism that Canada prides itself on.
And in January this year, she won the coveted “Female Singer of the Year” category at Canada’s Maple Blues Awards. In March she leaves for her first tour in Australia, followed immediately by 14 dates in France.
An international recording
In 2010, her latest CD — Brown Sugar — was launched internationally, and she made three different trips to Europe last year to promote the album in Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland and other countries. Critics have lauded the new album with the same enthusiasm they express for her incendiary live performances.
2009 prepared her and her sensational guitarist Donna Grantis for what’s happened since. Shakura played shows in half a dozen European countries on four separate tours that included a major appearance at a jazz festival in Tangiers. And she topped off the year with a show-stopping performance at home at Massey Hall at the Toronto Women’s Blues Revue.
In between tours, Brown Sugar was recorded in Tennessee and produced by Jim Gaines, has worked with Stevie Ray Vaughan, Journey, the Steve Miller Band, John Lee Hooker, Carlos Santana and countless more. Crack side musicians filled out Shakura’s band for the sessions, and two of her regular players — Donna Grantis and Lance Anderson on keys —played major roles. Almost all the songs on the new record are written by Shakura and her guitarist — they are powerful pieces that push the boundaries of the blues; best of all, the songs are delivered with aching, emotion-laced vocals and powerful guitar and keyboard work.
Shakura S'Aida — pronounce her name “Shack-oora Sigh-ee-da”— began performing at a young girl. Her first steps into music began with a Toronto community band called Mystique, which found her belting out tunes alongside Deborah Cox, and then became the lead singer in a 13-piece world music band, Kaleefah, that would later be nominated for a Juno Award.
She quickly learned how to own the stage and “perform,” a skill she has since carried to the musical stage with roles in such productions as Ain't Misbehavin' and Momma, I Want to Sing, and to the theatre as an actress in the Toronto production of George Boyd’s Consecrated Ground in 2004).
She also carried off supporting roles in a number of Canadian-made films, and she was featured in an installment of Flashpoint, a major CTV television series that’s also aired in the U.S.
As a solo artist, Shakura's career has spanned genres and countries and taken her to some of the most noted stages in the jazz world. She’s performed at the Apollo Theatre in New York and has also been featured with such legendary artists as Jimmy Smith and Ruth Brown; she’s sung backup with Patti Labelle, and is equally at home singing material with a Ray Charles tribute band, or presenting a one-woman show of the music of Nina Simone.
Her first CD, Blueprint, took listeners on a journey through the blues of the 1940's and 50's; the album was produced by James Bryan (Nelly Furtado, Divine Essence), a member of the popular Canadian rock group, The Philosopher Kings, who also played guitar on the CD.
Shakura’s career moved into high gear in 2008 with a triumph at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, when she earned the runner-up position, competing against more than 100 bands from more than 20 different countries.
A final word:
"I am truly blessed by all the incredible opportunities I have had," says Shakura. "My life has been filled with amazing adventures; I can’t wait to see what happens next!”