Brooklyn-born, Swiss-raised and now living in Canada, Shakura S’Aida is a true international entertainer performing at festivals all over the world including Dubai, Australia, Rwanda and Russia.
She’s a performer in every sense of the word, a writer, singer, actor, artistic director and much more.
It was over a decade ago when she decided that entertaining would be her life.
“Until then I don’t think I was hungry. I don’t think I understood how important this was to me,” S’Aida said. “I think it was 11 years ago I quit working straight jobs and went straight into just doing music, just doing theatre, just doing film.”
She was on stage at the Montreal Jazz Festival when she realized entertaining was going to be her focus.
“There were thousands and thousands of people that you’re singing in front of and then I saw this wave of energy not hit us, but be absorbed by us and we just exhaled it back out,” S’Aida said. “It was incredible and in that moment my spirit just said ‘this is where you’re supposed to be and this is what you’re supposed to be doing.’”
She set out, and accomplished, many goals in the years since that moment including touring Europe, performing in Africa, Australia and singing with orchestras.
“Every single thing I did I asked the universe to let me do before I actually did it. The only thing I didn’t get to do is sing in Japan, that hasn’t come true yet,” S’Aida said.
With a steadfast determination the jazz/soul singer even predicted a collaboration with three-time Grammy winning blues artist Keb’ Mo’.
“I met him years before and told him that we were going to work together. I didn’t know how it was going to happen, I just knew I wanted it to happen, and I was feeling quite bold and said so, but it happened,” S’Aida said. “Everything that I’ve done, I’ve wanted to do.”
Her goals now: “To be happy, to be honourable, to be humble and to do things that bring me joy and that keep my integrity.”
Success in the entertainment industry, music in particular, is a tough thing to come by. In a panel recently on Jazz FM, S’Aida, along with industry artists and professionals including jazz musician Andrew Craig and vocalist Sophie Milman, discussed what it takes to curate that success.
“The one thing that we all agreed on was you really need to diversify. Diversify without compromise. It’s not so much I wear a lot of hats, it’s just that I’m aware that in order to be happy I need to fulfil all the different parts of my brain,” she said.
S’Aida keeps a full schedule, curating music for CBC Radio, acting in TV shows including Lost Girl, Schitt’s Creek and Flashpoint and of course, singing.
“I think they are all part of the same creative process, I also act and I think it’s all part of being an entertainer. I don’t look at them as different hats I just look at them as different parts of my brain that get exercised so they don’t atrophy,” S’Aida said.
She also wrote a four-woman tribute to singer/songwriter and civil rights activist Nina Simone which sold out every night. A surreal experience for S’Aida.
“It still doesn’t feel real. There’s something that happens when you put your dreams out there and you believe that they are going to come true, you just don’t know when. When they do come true there’s a feeling of other-worldliness,” S’Aida said.
She said she is looking forward to the Dream Music Festival, which is set to fill the stage with the best jam bands in Canada, with high-calibre musicians playing in a jam band of epic proportions.
“Anyone who has ever been to the Dream Café or performed at the Dream Café knows how important (owners) Debra and Pierre (Couture) are. And to perform at a festival that has been created in their honour is a huge honour,” S’Aida said. “I’m thinking of it as a huge jam session where we all play together, a get-together, where we celebrate not just music, but the people who allow live music to happen.”
This is part two of a six-part series previewing the Dream Music Festival. Tickets are $69, $79 and $89 available at the South Okanagan Events Centre, Penticton and Wine Country Visitor Centre and online at www.thedreammusicfestival.ca.
Read more on the Festival here: