Every week, we ask a different local artist to provide their unique perspective on the pandemic experience from a musician’s point of view. Through words, video and music, each musician will share their story, along with an audio or video sample of a recent project, and a link to purchase their music so that you can support their work.
This week, vocalist, actor and community connector Shakura S'Aida talks about nurturing community, the connection between art and activism, and the wider place of music in the world.
"Living through the pandemic this past year changed my mind. Usually I am homebound for short periods of time before going on the road again; typically I spend my time hiding out at home, replenishing my energy for the next gig or tour. Having to stay isolated at home for such a prolonged period of time gave me the opportunity and the space to examine who I was as an artist and who I want to be moving forward.
I always knew that community was important to me, but being in the middle of “pandemia” meant that I felt more responsibility for my community than ever before. I ran errands for seniors and collected food for the food bank. I made a point of connecting with other musicians on a weekly basis - to speak about nothing in particular and to speak about everything in particular, sometimes at the same time. I did all this, because my grandparents raised me to always make sure that everyone around me was ok, but i also did it because connecting with neighbours and other musicians made me feel ok. I became more reflective about how to become a better artist, and so I also attended many different workshops and masterclasses that were being offered online and which helped me to uncover new ways to connect my heart with my art more significantly. My most favourite and proudest artistic achievement of 2020 was creating a weekly check-in space for Afro-Canadian/American/Caribbean/Latina female musicians from Canada and the US; these regular meetups have kept us feeling grounded, supported and protected.
Experiencing the sadness, anger and frustration brought into my heart by the wrongful deaths of Ahmaud Marquez Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Regis Korchinski-Paquet and many, many others was extremely hard, especially while also trying to process the emotions that came from being in the middle of a global pandemic. I was forced to recognize, acknowledge and accept that my art cannot be separated from my activism. This new reconciliation of heart and mind has been a difficult journey; I’ve lost some folks along the way - folks who I thought were good friends and allies - but it’s also been an enlightening, inspiring and life-affirming experience: I’ve connected deeply with many citizens of the world who want to change our world for the better. All these experiences - the good, the bad and the ugly - have benefitted my music greatly.
I’ve learned a lot this past year, but the most important thing that I have learned is that music is a vital part of our community. It heals, soothes and breathes life into us, no matter where we are from or what we believe in. As artists, I believe that it is our responsibility to use our art as a reflection and an amplifier of all that we see and hear. The time and space that we have been given may have challenged us, but it has also allowed many of us to find new pathways into deeper human connections, creativity, compassion and love - I look forward to hearing what all that beautiful music sounds like."
Support Shakura by purchasing her music from her website: shakurasaida.com.
Check out Shakura's moving cover of The Doobie Brothers' "Takin' it to the Streets", recorded remotely last June with some very special guests: