Since it was conceived in the late 1800s, the torches once lit by the pioneers of the iconic blues genre have been passed down from generation to generation. BlackRock will be graced with the presence of one of the great current torchbearers in Shakura S’Aida, as she echos the voices of legends before her on Friday, December 7.
S’Aida is an internationally recognized blues vocalist who rose to prominence in 2008 when she was awarded with second place honors at the International Blues Contest.
Brooklyn-born, Swiss-raised, and Canadian-based, Shakura S’Aida has a diverse background to match her diverse performance experience. Her long-tenured career has given her the opportunity to grace stages around the world, performing at festivals in Dubai, Europe, Australia, Rwanda, and Russia. Before she embarked on her solo career, S’Aida was the lead-singer of the 13-piece world music ensemble, Kaleefah, and has shared the stage with musicians like Jimmy Smith, Lee Oskar, Bettye LaVette, and Keb Mo’. Her solo career took off in 2008 when she earned the runner-up position at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. Since then she has gone on to win or be nominated for over 20 awards recognizing her for her soulful blues vocals including winning the Maple Blues Award for Female Vocalist of the Year in 2011 and being nominated for the award in 2014, 2015, and 2016.
“This year is the 10th year since that journey, and that event changed my life,” she said when reminiscing on her what she considers to be the most memorable moment of her career. “It allowed me to go to France the first time, the second time, the third time, the eighth time, the 10th time; it allowed me to go to Australia. Going to the International Blues Contest completely changed my life.”
The success you see now was by no means overnight. Before having the opportunity to tour the world and take the stage with iconic artists like Jimmy Smith and Lee Oskar, S’Aida endured her fair share of trials and tribulations. In this industry, rarely does one overcome these obstacles without an anchor of a team to hold them down.
“My dad used to say ‘so when are you going to quit that job and do what you’re supposed to do,’ and I’d be like ‘and what’s that?’ and he’d say ‘music,’” she said of the positive impact her parents have had on her career. “They never discouraged me from being an artist, they just waited patiently for me to accept that as my fate. They’re always in the front row of the audience. They watch every aspect of it and have advised me along the way in ways that have allowed me to grow bigger and stronger as an artist.”
While an important one, a strong team is only one aspect of a winning formula in the music industry. The importance of confidence in one’s self and one’s ability to be successful in an era riddled with oversaturation is not to be overshadowed.
“It all comes down to doing what you believe and trusting your heart and not listening to other people,” she said. “I wasn’t encouraged to go down to the International Blues Contest; it wasn’t something that people thought was going to change anything. I knew it had the ability to make things a lot better than they were because nobody knew who I was before I went down there.”
Shakura, along with newly added Chuck Campbell from the Campbell Brothers, will be playing at the BlackRock Center for the Arts in Germantown at 8:00 pm. on Friday, December 7. Adult tickets range from $25-$45. For more information or to buy tickets visit http://blackrockcenter.org or call the box office at 240-912-1058.
The blues will be back at BlackRock two weeks later when triple threat artist Dave Keller is welcomed to its Studio Theater on December 21. Dave Keller will make his BlackRock debut on Friday, December 21 at 8:00 pm. Keller is touring to support the release of his highly anticipated label debut album “Every Soul’s a Star.”
Dave Keller is an award-winning singer, guitarist, and songwriter whose love of deep southern soul and blues can be heard throughout his records as well as his electrifying performances. Keller has been nominated for a Blues Music Award for Best Soul/Blues Album, won the International Blues Challenge for Best Self-Released CD Award, and been chosen for Downbeat’s Best Recordings of the Year. This was all before signing with his current label Catfood Records, where label head Bob Trenchard has called him “the most-talented songwriter I’ve ever worked with.”
Patrons are encouraged to bring BYOF (Bring-Your-Own-Feast) to BlackRock’s Friday Night Series. Your picnic preferences could include take-out from the enormous array of excellent Germantown restaurants or a home-packed basket filled with your own munchies. No alcoholic beverages may be brought from off premises into the BlackRock facilities.
BlackRock Center for the Arts is a cultural cornerstone and the leading venue for the performing and visual arts in Upper Montgomery County Maryland. Since 2002, the nonprofit arts center has been providing the community with diverse performing arts programs, free gallery exhibitions and arts education experiences in a welcoming and intimate setting close to home. The dynamic facility houses two art galleries, two theaters presenting more than 40 performances per year, and numerous classrooms and studios where year-round classes in the arts are offered for all ages.
Friday, December 7, 2018 at 8:00 pm.
Friday, December 21, 2018 at 8:00 pm.
Top: Shakura S’Aida will perform at BlackRock on Friday, Dec. 7 at 8:00 pm
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Next: Dave Keller will make his BlackRock debut on Friday, December 21 at 8:00 pm.
Photos courtesy BlackRock Center for the Arts.