FACT Chats: Chaka Khan gets charismatically candid about her career

The icon was recently in the Saudi capital to headline the inaugural Riyadh International Jazz Festival.

Chaka Khan, a name synonymous with soul, funk, and musical energy, has captivated audiences for over five decades with her powerhouse vocals. From her early days as a pivotal member of the funk ensemble Rufus to her superstar solo endeavours, Chaka’s journey has led her from chart-topping success to headlining the first Riyadh International Jazz Festival in Saudi Arabia.

With hits like Ain’t Nobody and I’m Every Woman, Chaka has been the recipient of numerous awards and accolades. Her recent performance at the Riyadh Jazz Festival has solidified her status as one of the world’s most dynamic performers, drawing fans from across the region to witness her debut performance in the Kingdom.

Reflecting on her enduring success, Chaka attributes her longevity in the industry to a blend of raw talent, unwavering dedication, and sheer determination. However, she humbly acknowledges that her sustained relevance is ultimately “by God’s grace” and why she remains relevant to this day. “I don’t think about music, I just feel it,” she remarked about her connection to the craft. “I draw my energy from people, and I am deeply grateful and blessed to do what I love for a living.”

In the contemporary landscape, the rise of artificial intelligence has ushered in a new era of music creation. And while AI-generated compositions have garnered plenty of attention, Chaka remains steadfast in her belief that authenticity reigns supreme. “There’s nothing like the real thing, and a lot of it has to do with being savvy,” she says, dismissing the notion of AI replication of her voice. “I’ll sue them if anyone replicates my voice using AI.”

Chaka Khan’s journey has not been without its share of trials and tribulations, as she has openly confronted struggles with substance abuse and health challenges, including diabetes. Her path to sobriety stands as a testament to her resilience and fortitude, inspiring others to confront their own adversities. “I want to live,” she declares. “I’m not done yet.”

In an era marked by turmoil and uncertainty, she understands the artist’s role, adding, “We are the mirrors of what is going on on this planet right now.” Her candid acknowledgement of societal realities underscores her commitment to using her art as a vehicle for social commentary and reflection.

Speaking about her experience in Saudi Arabia, Chaka expresses gratitude for the warm reception she received and praises the strength and beauty of the women she encountered. “I love the fact that they are celebrating themselves and their strength,” she continued. “We hold many towers.” 

As for her performance at the Riyadh International Jazz Festival, the headline hit-fest transcended mere entertainment, and it remains abundantly clear: the queen of funk shows no signs of slowing down.

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Shaheera Anwar - Staff Writer
From a beautiful childhood in Riyadh to a calm and collected life in Dubai. When she's not busy penning her latest masterpiece, you can catch Shaheera lounging with her family or binging on the latest movies. And as a millennial, she's got her sights set on TikTok - hoping to go viral someday (fingers crossed).

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