Question: How do you pronounce your name?
Answer: Sha-koora, or if you're Arabic, then it's Shakr'a. Shakura means "thank you," S'Aida means "happy" and together it means "thanks be to the one who made us happy" or "feeling grateful."
Q: Where are you from?
A: I was born in New York and we were there till I was probably seven or eight, and then moved to Toronto and then we moved away to Switzerland for about three-and-a-half years and then we came back to Toronto. I am American, but I am Canadian for all intents and purposes.
Q: Have you been to Vancouver before?
A: I have, yes. I love it out there. I find I love B.C., period. I don't think it's underrated, I think people really do appreciate it and understand how beautiful it is, but I think that more of the people out East, you know, on this side, need to go out and just appreciate it. It's gorgeous.
Q: How did you get into blues music?
A: Basically, I started singing in church and I then started doing these coffee house poetry things, poetry readings. I would do spoken word, and then I would sing and I would sing gospel songs. I found, or I felt, that the audience wasn't necessarily comfortable with the choices I was making. And at the same time I was going to jams. I got involved with a band called Mystique and I learned a couple of blues songs, and what I realized is that when you sing blues and you sing, "Lord, help me," nobody had a problem with it. In fact, they yelled out, "yeah, yeah," but if I sang like, "Jesus on the mainline," people were like, "hey," and there was this bit of uncomfortableness that was happening. So, I switched to blues and really got immersed in it and really started listening to a lot of different people, including my favourite, Etta James, who a lot of people don't actually think of as a blues artist, but I certainly do. And it went from there.
Q: How old were you when you started singing?
A: I have no idea. My mother said I've been singing all of my life, but I don't remember that. We lived in townhouses when I was a teenager in Toronto on the beaches, and when I would get mad at my parents I would sneak out of my sister's balcony and I would climb over the rooftop to my next-door neighbour's house and I would go into his place because he had a record player and all this music, and I would sit in his room and listen to music while my parents thought I was in my room sulking. And I would sing along - I'd put the headphones on and they would come along and say, "OK, you have to sing a little bit quieter." So, I do think I was using music as therapy at quite an early age and singing along with music, but I really don't know when I started singing. Music has always been a part of me.
Q: You're also into acting as well as singing. Is that a parallel career?
A: As far as I know, I was acting first. I started acting in high school, and it was my theatre arts teacher that told me that I should sing, because I would always be an actor, but I should sing - she really loved my voice and thought it was something that I should pursue and I loved this theatre arts teacher so much. I think she was my
... I continued to act, and up until recently, I was very involved in the acting world in Toronto, but it becomes very difficult because I'm never here for auditioning cycles. I'm out of town a lot, and I'm out of town a lot when filming is going on, so it's difficult.
Q: Where do you perform mostly?
A: I guess mostly festivals now. Festivals and theatres, and we do a fair bit of corporate work.
Q: Can you tell me about your latest album, Time?
A: I wrote the majority of the songs on the albums, some with my friend Donna Grantis who was my guitarist up until recently, and some with a friend of mine, Brook Blackburn, who's been my friend for almost 25 years, and then some by myself. I wanted a collection of music, so I chose blues music for one CD and rock and soul music for the other one. I wanted to encapsulate all the music of my life, and because I was raised in Toronto, because I was raised in Switzerland, my music wasn't just about blues, it was also about the soft rock period that was going on in the '70s and the funky stuff that was going on in the '80s to address that with this album. And I wanted to do it in such a way that did not confuse my blues audience and make them think that I was either deserting them or not considering how they might feel.
Q: Have you performed in Burnaby before?
A: I haven't. Actually, the very first time I went to Vancouver I stayed in Burnaby. I went to a friend's who was with the B.C. Lions at the time. He's back in Toronto now with his family for a long while, but I love, love, love Vancouver. I played at the Vancouver Island festival and also at the Vancouver festival last year, and so I'm really, really looking forward to having an opportunity to play outside of Vancouver proper. I'm looking forward to being a part of (the Burnaby) festival as well.
Q: What can your audience expect from your set at the Burnaby Blues Festival?
A: To not have any expectations, please. That's my least favourite question of all, and I always say this, because I think that what happens is when you tell people, oh, my gosh, she sings like this, this and this, or she's going to do this, this and this, they come with this expectation, and they've already closed themselves off to half the possibilities that can happen. I think, just expect that I'm going to do my best. I'm going to my best and we're going to give you the best music that we have on that day. And we are going to enjoy ourselves.
Q: You were nominated for a Juno award this year. How does this kind of award change your career?
A: It changed how I think about me. Getting the nomination this year was very, very huge because this project really was about me. For the first time, I did what I wanted to do and the vision really was mine. The musicians that were brought into this project were my choices, the producers and everybody involved were those that I wanted to be involved (with), so getting the nomination is, for me, a nod to trust myself. To not second guess my creativity, my artistry, my experience. It's not so much, wow, look at me, I got nominated for this, people think I'm great, it's look at me, look at what I can accomplish when I trust myself. And then other people trust you, too, and they enjoy what you do.
Q: Considering your name, are you ever concerned about being confused with (the Colombian pop singer) Shakira?
A: No, because my hips do lie. All the time.
The Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival is on Saturday, Aug. 10 at Deer Lake Park. For tickets and information, see www.burnabybluesfestival. com.
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