Festival opens with gutsy blues singer

Harrison Festival of the Arts begins this Friday with evening shows and beach music

Shakura S'Aida opens the Harrison Festival of the Arts evening concert lineup on Friday

This Friday’s opening act of the Harrison Festival Arts should just the right note with music lovers.

Shakura S’Aida has been performing since the tender age of 13, and now has a quarter of a century of onstage experience to back her up.

She’ll perform Friday, July 6 at 8:30 p.m. in the Harrison Memorial Hall, the first of 10 shows that cover everything from blues to urban dance music.

Shakura S’Aida (pronounced Shack-oora Sigh-ee-da) began performing at a young girl. 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 a 13-piece world music band, Kaleefah, that would later be nominated for a Juno Award.

She’s performed at the Apollo Theatre in New York and 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’s just played her first show with a symphony orchestra.

S’Aida’s long-simmering career initially 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.

Markus James & the Wassonrai • Saturday, July 7

There’s a real blues theme to the festival this year, and that might be most obvious when Markus James & the Wassonrai hit the stage tomorrow at Memorial Hall night.

With West African percussion and North Mississippi-style riffs, this group has developed its own profound blues style. James has performed around world, including the renowned Festival in the Desert, in Timbuktou.

Cedric Watson and Bijou Creole • Sunday, July 8

Nominated for four Grammy Awards, Cedric Watson is one of the brightest young talents to

emerge in Cajun, Creole and Zydeco music over the last decade. Moving with ease between fiddle and accordion, and adding his strong blues influenced vocals, Cedric’s creative style and obvious joy in playing make him an engaging and exciting performer.

 

Literary Cafe • Monday, July 9

Heartbreak & Humour – Join writers Kevin Chong and Alex Leslie and guitarist John Gilliat for an evening of readings and music.

 

Theatre Night • Tuesday, July 10

(ital) Features two plays chosen from the 2012 UFV Directors’ Festival. Hidden in this Picture and Unprotected Sex. Mature audiences

 

Sketch • Wednesday, July 11

Spearheading a radical new wave of Celtic-based, dance floor sounds, Sketch is the brainchild of ex-Peatbog Faeries drummer and producer Iain Copeland.

 

Sidi Toure • Thursday, July 12

Born in the ancient town of Gao, Mali, once the heart of the Songhai empire, Sidi Touré has created a sound which both captures and challenges his roots.  His guitar playing and vocals cross into western folk and blues not unlike Ali Farka Toure (who is also a Songhai).

 

Mike Farris and the Cumberland Saints  • Friday, July 13

Music that will stop you dead in your tracks. The album “Salvation in Lights” married old time roots gospel sounds with his own unique arrangements that were mainly inspired by New Orleans, Stax and the Blues. Winner of Americana Music Association’s “New & Emerging Artist of the Year” award and the Gospel Music Association’s “Best Traditional Gospel Album” in 2010.

 

Niamh Ni Charra Band • Saturday, July 14

What could be better to round out this year’s Festival program with some of the best traditional song, music and dance that Ireland has to offer. Niamh hails from Killarney, Ireland, where she started playing music at the age of four.  A multiple award winner on both fiddle and concertina, she toured for eight years as a soloist with Riverdance.

 

Wazimbo • Sunday, July 15

Humberto Carlos Benfica, known as Wazimbo, is one of the greatest voices of Mozambique and one of the most famous singers of the Mozambican style – Marrabenta. He became the lead vocalist of Orchestra Marrabenta Star De Mocambique in 1979 and developed a full and funky style of Marrabenta featuring electric guitars, powerful horn lines and soulful vocals.

 

Tickets for these shows are 25 each for regular admission, $22 for senior/child.

For tickets and information, visit www.harrisonfestival.com.