Known as the ‘lioness of the blues’, San Francisco’s Sista Monica knows plenty about injecting fire and passion into every performance.
Local music fans will have the chance to hear her powerful, compelling style during this year’s Central Music Festival, set for Aug. 17-19.
The family-oriented event, now in its sixth year, takes place in a natural outdoor amphitheatre located minutes north of the City – attendees can head north on Taylor Dr., cross Hwy. 11A and continue on the C&E Trail.
Continue onto Township Rd. 392, turn left and the site is located just up the road.
Things kick off on the Friday at 6 p.m. The music runs Saturday from noon to midnight and on Sunday from noon until 5:30 p.m. Pretty much any genre can be heard, from blues, rock, country, folk, reggae, funk and jazz to Tex-Mex, Cajun, and bluegrass.
Sista Monica Parker, who performs on Aug. 18, released her latest CD, Living in the Danger Zone, late last year. Immediately, she became a 2012 Blues Music Award nominee for ‘Best Soul Blues Female Artist’ by The Blues Foundation. Little wonder with such flawless performances from the infectious No Shame in My Game and Hug You Like You Love Me and the no-nonsense vibe of the title track to the simmering sentiment of Tears and the rollicking Worn Out Your Welcome.
“I was about seven years old, and I’d been going to my cousin’s church for awhile,” she recalls of when she initially became interested in performing. “It was a little Baptist church, and I wanted to be part of the choir. They said ‘Wow, she’s really singing loud,’ and they asked me if I wanted to sing. From that time on I’ve been singing, but I didn’t think it would end up like this,” she adds, indicating her successful foray into the blues.
“I grew up with gospel music, but I got the blues bug somewhere in the early 1990s. And I’ve been singing blues ever since. I like music that resonates not just with me, but with other people as well. I think the blues does that.
“It’s true music. People are usually writing about their woes, their situations – it’s pretty authentic. I like the simplicity and the truthfulness of it.”
Originally employed with an engineering firm on the west coast, she arrived home late one night and caught her one-time neighbour MC Hammer performing on the Arsenio Hall Show.
“I saw him on that show, and thought if he can do that then I can do that,” she said with a laugh. She bought a microphone, recruited some musicians and started tackling some old classic tunes. She soon started songwriting and eventually cut a CD in 1994. Living in the Danger Zone is her 11th disc.
She is recognized her dynamic performances and has shared the stage with the likes of Mavis Staples, Gladys Knight, Ray Charles, Al Green and Etta James.
Over the years, she has found music to be an uplifting, healing means of expressing herself. It also meant the world to her during a battle with cancer back in 2003. Doctors first told her she had only a short time to live, but aggressive treatment, along with the power of music and the healing touch of God have brought her through to a healthy, strong place today, she said.
“It increased my confidence in knowing that I’m not here alone.”
Her roots in the church have certainly been a strengthening factor in her life.
“I think gospel music gave me a foundation that helps me seek a spiritual connection. When I come into times of trouble, need, struggle and strife, I can go straight to the source and find some refuge and think about what’s happened, bring some context to it and see the good and the bad in it. I think gospel music has helped me to do that, and to celebrate the goodness of God.”
For Parker, music and performing provides a non-stop sense of joy and fulfillment.
“I think music makes a contribution to people in a soulful place, in their hearts. I do it for the sheer love of it, and the healing process and the aspect of music really, really touching people. It makes people feel better, and reflect on the things that are important in life.”
Check out www.centralmusicfest.com.