The Sista’s Tribute to Aretha Franklin on Sunday 13 September is Sophia Foster’s way of honouring and celebrating Franklin’s life.
The tribute concert consists of an all-female line-up with performers Dominique Domingo (band leader, piano), Tiana Amari (bass), Andrea Davids (drums), Kara Snethlage (guitar), Shannon Botman (sax), Celeste Florence (vocals), Amy-Jane Levens (vocals), Yolanda Mayman (vocals) and Fifi-Refuwe Mncayi (vocals).
For Foster, it is the culmination of a long-held dream. Mindful of her own experiences when she started in the entertainment business in the mid-sixties, she nurtured this vision of running a skills programme for up-and-coming youngsters.
“The mentoring idea was always there. I spent most of my life mentoring people in the industry. It was a natural progression,” she says.
Foster first became aware of Aretha when she heard her singing Change is Gonna Come 50 years ago.
“I cried and cried listening to her lyrics and thought ‘will there ever be a change in our country?’”
Although much has been written locally and internationally about the impact of the song RESPECT, which has become something of a battle cry for the oppressed, her favourite Aretha song is A House is Not a Home.
Q&A with Sophia Foster
When are you happiest?
When I am cooking up a storm in my kitchen.
What does music mean to you?
It’s a safe way for me to share my feelings and share my message.
What is the most enjoyable aspect of your work?
Being in the energy of creativity, working with incredibly gifted and talented artists and musicians, seeing the joy on peoples faces.
What drives you: Ego or humility?
Humility always; in the form of gratitude and appreciation for others.
Any funny moments on stage?
At one of my shows, I had a quick change and the zipper of my dress was not pulled all the way up. During this really powerful ballad, I lifted up my arms for a dramatic ending and one of my breasts decided to say hello to the audience. All I could hear was the audience shout for more. Not sure what they wanted more of?
People who overcome adversity and prejudice through self-believe, courage and commitment to making a difference. I love it when people are the change they want to see.
Which living person do you admire most and why?
I admire anyone who has the courage to live life from the heart and forgive those that disappoint you. Like Pieter-Dirk Uys, who introduced us to politics through satire. He has the ability to bring laughter to serious issues he has always been one of my favourite artists.
What is your most treasured possession?
Two sequin gowns I purchased in Las Vegas. They cost the equivalent of two years’ salary back in the day.
It’s your round, what are you drinking?
My favourite drink is a cola tonic and lemonade.
What makes you stand out?
An image of sophistication and class.
I’ve always been known for my gowns and quick costume changes.
What are your nicknames?
A have a few: Fluffy, Phia, Miss Soph, Phisy.
If you were not a musician, what would you do?
I would be a trauma counsellor.
I find my compassion for people who need help and guidance through a difficult time. It is something that I am compelled to do.
There is so much that people have to deal within on a day-to-day basis that others are not aware of.
Pick five words to describe yourself?
Generous, loyal, honest, committed…and crazy.
What song changed your life?
Let’s Just Kiss and Say Goodbye. It gave me the courage to end a relationship, allowing me to find my Mr Right.
What is your favourite word?
“Really”. It’s my car’s registration.
Favourite fashion garment?
Where do I start? I have one for every occasion. And on some occasions two or three. If any woman can answer this question, she doesn’t go out shopping enough. I have a wardrobe of favourites screaming at me every time I open it.
Give us some real proper slang and what it means?
I am a Gail queen. Gail is a language on its own — it’s a code that uses women’s names to express yourself.
- Bulla – beautiful
- Reva – revolting
- Debra – depress
- Sylvia – something smells
Basically one name for every letter of the alphabet — there’s a whole dictionary out there.
What do you complain about most often?
Having dinner ready and my husband coming home late. A woman’s work is never done.
What is your fear?
Running out of airtime, not finding WiFi while travelling abroad, receiving a cellphone bill after leaving call and data roaming on while overseas.
On stage, what do you tend to do?
Lose all my inhibitions and become larger than life.
Where would you like to be right now?
Wherever I am, may I be there to the fullest. I always try and keep my head and my body in the same place. I’ve realised that if you can’t accept where you are now, you won’t be able to plan for your journey ahead.
Wishes and dreams?
To grow my foundation and to gain support and commitment from all those who have the opportunity to assist me in sharing my experiences, understandings, and knowledge with our talented youth
Watch the Aretha tribute show
Tickets for the Sista’s Tribute to Aretha Franklin on the Quicket platform on Sunday 13 September at 15:00 are R75.