YolanDa Brown loves Jazz and is out to change the way people view Jazz in the UK. She would like to see all love and enjoy Jazz as she does. This young and charming musician has already won Mobo Awards twice for Best Jazz.
She is now touring the UK promoting her debut album “April Showers May Flowers”. This is a beautifully sculpted record that touches lightly on Jazz and Soul and R&B, each track bestowed with the kind of lyrical insight – on love and life – that suggests its author is something of a poet, too.
YolanDa has a very chilled out vibe and a voice that has been compared to SADE. She is however known as Britain’s Premier Saxophonist, and has broken all boundaries in much the same way as classical crossover musicians such as Jamie Cullum have done.
YolanDa who is a self-taught musician has played with many famous musicians including Alexander O’Neal, Mica Paris, The Temptations, Soweto Kinch and Jools Holland.
After obtaining a first and a Master’s Degree, YolanDa enrolled for PhD but her love for music has made her suspend her studies for now. She has however promised to return and complete her PhD studies one day.
YolanDa is a patron for the Mayor of London’s fund for Young Musicians. She has been to Buckingham Palace and met the Queen, in addition to doing a private concert for the Russian President. Here’s an exclusive interview she granted The AfroNews.
YolanDa, you have won two Mobo Awards for Best Jazz. That’s a great achievement for such a young musician. What’s the secret of your success?
Thanks, I don’t think it’s a big secret but the main thing is to go out and get it. We didn’t wait for promoters to book me in the early days but instead decided to garner an audience and following ourselves. This involved releasing EPs, self-promoting solo concerts in fantastic venues around London, including IndigO2, Under the Bridge and HMV Apollo!
How has winning Mobo Awards changed your life?
Winning the MOBOs personally gave me the confidence to continue doing what I do – being me and playing the music I like to make. It let me know that there are people out there that want to hear what I’m doing and share time with me at concerts. As a recording and performing artist that’s the main thing you want.
The title of your new album is “April Showers May Flowers”. Quite poetic, why did you choose this title?
“April Showers May Flowers” illustrates a journey. Everyone in life has to work through something at one time or another, from the young school child to the millionaire entrepreneur. These times I call April Showers, but if you can believe there will be better days and push through the harder times then the blessings and successes – May Flowers will surely come. When in those April Showers… think of the May Flowers that are on their way!
What should those who haven’t listened to the LP expect?
For my debut project I wanted to share with the listeners what they would get if they came to a YolanDa Brown concert. The album takes you through a range of genres and feelings including Jazz, Swing, Reggae, Classical and Ballads. I have grown up listening to such a mix of genres that it is a challenge to play in just one so there is something for everyone.
Generally, what message or messages do you try to pass across through your music?
My main message would be “Be yourself and go out and do it”. It is great to receive messages and feedback that a listener has been inspired or motivated after being at a show or hearing the album and it warms my heart to know the message is coming across.
What are some of the challenges you are facing as a musician in the UK?
I think the main challenge is being an independent artist in some respects. On one hand it is great that I have the creative liberty and control of what my brand and project can do. On the other hand it is difficult to compete with the grand machine of the major labels and mainstream network. It is not impossible but you have to push even harder to be heard amongst the giants! It is also very rewarding to have had an independent release with such a great reception in the mainstream.
I know you have a special mission to change the way people view Jazz Music. Now, how do the people view it?
Jazz has a very unique view here in the UK. Some see it as a genre for the elite; others see it as a genre that is past. But in fact Jazz has a heavy foundation in all of the music we hear today and when presented well can be enjoyed by all. It is important to share with listeners live music that has soul and meaning. Music based in improvisation and “of the moment” performances can be enjoyed by all.
How would you like them to view Jazz Music?
I think it is important to explore the roots of Jazz music but also to take it forward to present day. Jazz works so well with other genres that today Jazz is not just traditional but can have influences of Hip Hop, AfroBeat, Reggae and Soul. This new movement is very popular and can be explored even more by the current generation.
You have an exceptional voice, making many compare you to SADE. How do you take care of your voice?
Thanks! Using my voice is still quite a new experience as I had always seen myself as a saxophonist. But while writing the album and putting a lot of my melodies to words it was the perfect opportunity to learn more about my voice. The main way to look after your voice is to be sensitive to it. Know when you are feeling a strain and keep it warmed up, no cold drinks and honey is great on cold nights!
Why did you decide to become a musician?
Music has always been a part of me. I didn’t know I was going to be a musician but having played musical instruments from the age of six and picking up the saxophone at 13, I find making music very therapeutic. You can say what you mean without having to use words and it is a universal language. Being able to communicate with any audience and share what I feel is a great honour! Having put my PhD on hold to follow music it is a great honour to be able to play music for a living.
What are your future projects YolanDa?
At the moment we are touring and I am really enjoying sharing the album live around the world! I am working a lot in young education and bringing live music to the younger generations and of course working on the next album!
Any advice to young people who would like to become musicians?
If you want to become a musician… be one! It is so much easier to get yourself noticed. Communicate with people now with social networking, create a profile and share it with the world. Play gigs, go to jam sessions, don’t wait in your room and expect anyone to find you! Build a supportive team around you, parents, friends, musicians, etc. Also, don’t be afraid to grow on the stage. There are amazing musicians out there but if you have your unique stand point and are willing to grow as you go then your audience and career will grow with you. All the Best!
YolanDa will be performing at the Glasgow Jazz Festival on 28th June 2012 and at the Boisdale, Canary Wharf, London on 14th July 2012.
YOLANDA BROWN’S LINK AND CONTACT
By Stephen Ogongo Ongong’a