Female blues stars headline Vancouver Island MusicFest on first night – Campbell River Mirror


Although there is a long tradition of women singing the blues, dating back to Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey and others, they are not always center stage.

Vancouver Island MusicFest favorite Shakura S’Aida is aiming to change that, as she put together the Friday night headlining show, HER Majesty, for this year’s festival. She had assembled a stellar cast of singers and musicians for the evening of July 8.

S’Aida and fellow performer Terrie Odabi came up with the idea at a blues showcase in Memphis because they wanted to find a place to give women more of a chance in the spotlight, while being supported by other women. , all players crack on their instruments.

During the pandemic, she had stayed in touch with other black women in the blues community, as they were particularly affected by the shutdown of live music. Coincidentally, S’Aida’s penultimate show before the concert halls closed was in the Comox Valley in March 2020. Since then, she has played a few, including a few symphony shows.

For the Vancouver Island event this summer, festival artistic director Doug Cox asked S’Aida to compose the Friday night headliner. Cox describes Shakura’s picks as an unprecedented gathering of women who have made their lives in the blues in Canada and the United States

“When I considered such a collaboration, only one person came to my mind to organize this for us, and that person is the brilliant singer and music fan Shakura S’Aida. Shakura is someone who n is no stranger to MusicFest. In fact, the last time she was here, we had her close with Ry Cooder,” he says. “When I asked her to organize a women’s blues revue for our festival, she jumped at the chance and in the process put together a powerful band that no one else could have put together.”

For S’Aida, the event is a chance to show people the talents of women in the blues world, across different generations, at a time when some might think young black women don’t sing the blues.

“Black women and the blues are a seemingly dying breed,” she says. “You hear about old school black women.”

The tradition is strong, however, which is part of why it has touched different generations for programming.

“It was really important to honor that,” she adds.

S’Aida began contacting some of the women she knew to see who was available. Unfortunately, her friend Odabi was reserved, but there were many others. With S’Aida, the featured singers will be: Lady A from Seattle (the original blues singer, not the renowned country act), Melody Angel from Chicago, Annika Chambers based in Texas and Florida, Rita Chiarelli from Toronto, Nikki D from Toledo, Ohio, Thornetta Davis from Detroit and Cecile Doo Kingue from Montreal. Accompaniment will be provided by Colleen Allen on sax, Anne Harris on violin, Anna Ruddick on bass and Tamara Williams on drums.

The singers will be in the center of the stage but also set back to sing in the background and dance, in other words, to support each other. Asked about the performers, S’Aida raves about each of the women featured and their range of styles, pointing out that no one is the headliner, but rather they are there to collaborate and support each other in as a community.

“It’s a court of queens, not a court of queens and princesses,” she said.

She also hopes to hold Her Majesty more than once and bring others like Odabi to town.

“I hope to be able to start again,” she adds.

For more information see www.islandmusicfest.com/

Comox Valley Music Festivals


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