Baz Luhrmann and Doja Cat Pay Respects to ‘Elvis’ Performer Shonka Dukureh: ‘A Special Light Went Out Today’

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“Elvis” director Baz Luhrmann and singer Doja Cat late on Thursday paid tribute to Shonka Dukureh, a performer and blues singer in the film who was found dead in her apartment on Thursday.

“A special light went out today and all of the Elvis movie family are heartbroken by the loss of Shonka Dukureh,” Luhrmann wrote on his Instagram. “From the moment she came into our world, Shonka brought joy, spirit and of course her voice and her music. Whenever she was on set, on stage or even just in the room, everyone always felt uplifted.”

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Dukureh, 44, portrayed Big Mama Thornton in Luhrmann’s film “Elvis” in what was her feature film debut. She’s also credited with recording “Hound Dog” on the “Elvis” original movie soundtrack. And as for her work with pop star Doja Cat, Dukureh appeared in the music video “Vegas” and was even invited to perform during Doja Cat’s set at Coachella.

“Was a true honor getting to know her, and I am so grateful to her for lending her incredible vocals to ‘Vegas,'” Doja Cat wrote on her Instagram story. You can see a screenshot below.

In a statement provided to TheWrap on Thursday, Warner Bros. EVP Music Darren Higman said that Dukureh was a “very special talent.”

“When we began looking for singers and musicians for ‘Elvis’ we came across a very special talent in our gospel session by the name of Shonka. We recorded over a period of months, during which time Baz also witnessed this immense talent,” Higman said. “This movie kicked off an active breakthrough point in her career, which she relished. She appeared in the movie and made a pop music video with Doja Cat. Shonka will be forever remembered as kind, gentle, and very modest about her immense talent. We are so happy the world got to witness that talent through ‘Elvis.’”

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The Soundtracks of Baz Luhrmann’s Films, Ranked

Dukureh, a native of Charlotte, North Carolina, was a graduate of Fisk University, where she studied theater, and she also held a master’s degree from Trevecca Nazarene University. She’s internationally toured with artists such as Jamie Liddell and The Royal Pharaohs, and she had also been featured as a soloist or background vocalist with artists such as Nick Cave, Mike Farris and Christopher Roberts, among more.

See Luhrmann and Doja Cat’s tributes below, and “Elvis” star Austin Butler and Olivia DeJonge also shared Luhrmann’s post to their own stories.

Doja Cat Shonka Dukureh Elvis
Instagram

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