THE INTERNATIONAL JAZZ & BLUES
ARTIST WHO CALLS CANADA HOME
Born in Brooklyn, New York. Raised in Switzerland.
A long-time Canadian who lives in Toronto. Signed to
a German record company, and created with a major
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 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 early next year, the new CD will be
launched internationally — and the singer already
has two major European tours on her schedule, on the
road with guitar virtuoso Coco Montoya and
Austrian blues star Meena.
So far this year — 2009 — she has performed at a
major jazz festival in Tangiers, and returned to
France, Italy, Germany and Switzerland in early
summer. Her brand-new second CD is being released
by Ruf Records, a German label with international
distribution. She will take part in this year’s
Women’s Blues Revue, alongside her guitarist Donna
Grantis, at Toronto’s Massey Hall, and she’s just back
from Finland where she helped mix the new album.
An early start
Shakura S'Aida — pronounce her name “Shack-oora
Sigh-ee-da”— began performing at a young age and
hasn’t stopped since. 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 the 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 (the Toronto production of
George Boyd’s “Consecrated Ground” in 2004). She
carried off supporting roles in film with Sudz
Sutherland’s “Doomstown” (2006) and in Frances
Anne Solomon’s “A Winter Tale” earlier this year.
She also had a part in an installment of “Flashpoint” a
major CTV television series that’s also aired in the
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 has
performed at the Apollo Theatre in New York and has
been nominated three times by the Toronto Blues
Society as the Maple Blues "Female Vocalist of the
Year" (2004/2005/2008); she was also nominated as
Entertainer of the Year for the 2008 Awards.
Shakura 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. She is a guest vocalist on two CDs by
Bill King and Saturday Night Fish Fry.
High gear career moves
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.
She moved on to a series of Blues Caravan dates
in Europe with fellow singers Deborah Coleman and
Dani Wilde, and then completed separate Italian and
French tours during the second half of the year, as
well as a summer of major jazz, blues and folk festival
appearances in Canada.
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, a member of
the popular Canadian rock group, The Philosopher
Kings, who also played guitar on the CD.
The new CD — the title has still to be determined
— was recorded in Tennessee and produced by Jim
Gaines, whose discography as an engineer and
producer includes work 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, which includes
two of her regular Toronto players, guitarist Donna
Grantis and Lance Anderson on keys.
This time, almost all the songs are written by
Shakura and her guitarist — they are powerful pieces
that push the boundaries of the blues; Shakura and
Donna have become an active, hard-working
Best of all, the songs are delivered with aching,
emotion-laced vocals and powerful guitar and
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