Biography

Awards and Nominations:

  • Honorary Doctor of Arts (University of East London) 2010
  • MOBO Awards Winner “Best Jazz” 2009
  • Urban Music Award Winner “Best Jazz” 2009
  • Urban Music Award Nominee “Most Inspiring Act” 2009
  • Marlborough Jazz Festival “Best Performer” 2009
  • MOBO Award Winner “Best Jazz” 2008
  • Urban Music Award Nominee “Best Jazz” 2008
  • WIEA Award Winner “Best Musician 2008”


Biography


How to modestly undersell a new artist when everything about them warrants a shout across the rooftops?


Frankly, it isn't easy, because by simply stating all that YolanDa Brown has achieved over these past few years in music - and she has done so entirely under her own steam - it really is difficult not to wander into the path of hyperbole.


So let us start by asserting that YolanDa Brown is a one-off, very much a woman of her time, and one of the precious few truly independent artists whose DIY ethic hasn't hindered the progress of her career but instead has laid the kind of foundations that could endure for decades.


As much entrepreneur as she is musician, as much gifted composer as she is the UK's premier saxophonist, this is a young lady with an entrepreneurial bent who is going to make a considerable mainstream splash, her name in lights at last.


After several years on the music circuit, not just London's music circuit but, the world's. Her debut album, April Showers, May Flowers was an album of effortless unfurling grace and impeccable soulful poise. It is the product of a two-time MOBO Award winner who knows exactly what she is doing, and precisely how to do it. Unsurprisingly, the album went straight into the amazon and iTunes Jazz Charts at No1.


"People often ask me what my target audience is," she says. "The thing is, when I look out into the audience at my shows, I can't really tell. I see all sorts of people: all ethnicities, all ages, either sex. So really, I guess, I'm making music for everyone." She smiles broadly. "I mean, why limit yourself?"


She was born in Barking in the early 1980s. Her father was in advertising, her mother a head teacher. Her first instrument was the piano and then she gravitated instead to the violin, and then the drums. The next few years saw a fleeting interest in several more instrument. But by 13 she had settled for the saxophone, with which she felt most comfortable, and also most naturally inclined towards.


"I'm not sure why the saxophone of all instruments appealed to me the most," she muses, "but I just felt at home with it. I love the music it made."



A head girl in comprehensive school in her native East London, she sailed through her GCSEs and A-levels, and gained a First in her operations management degree, before gaining two Masters in the subject . After a year studying in Spain, she came back not only even more versed in the world of business, but also fully bilingual.


A career in management consultancy beckoned, but YolanDa resisted.  "I simply couldn't imagine spending my life inside an office," she says. "Music was still my overriding love, and as long as I could pay the rent, I was going to pursue it for all I was worth."


This she did with impressive industry. Playing live as much as she could over the next few years, she quickly gained a reputation for herself - to the extent that, in 2008, she won a MOBO for Best Jazz, and then again in 2009. She played sax with everyone from Alexander O'Neal to Mica Paris, Soweto Kinch to The Temptations, and released two lovingly crafted EPs. She began increasingly to tour further afield - in the US, in Italy and Spain - and for 18 months even hosted her own talk show on Sky.


And through it all, she kept up with her studies, pursuing a Ph.D. in Management Science at the University of Kent. "I remember just about to go on stage in Rome one time, and sending off my dissertation to my supervisor at the same time," she says. "It was pretty difficult to sustain sometimes."


And so in January 2010, she decided to put her PhD on hold, "though I will return to it," she promises. "I just wanted to concentrate on my album; a tricky decision to make, but, I felt, the right one."

There is, dizzyingly, yet more: she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Arts by the University of East London, and in 2011 was invited to meet the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace. She went, had tea, and a lovely time.


It is pretty superfluous here, then, to suggest that in the last decade on the peripheries of mainstream music, YolanDa has achieved more than most artists would in a lifetime. That much is obvious.


But she hasn't finished yet.


Is there nothing this woman can't do?


She shrugs. "Well, you can do everything yourself these days - if you know how to."


YolanDa Brown knows how to...


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Comment by Richard Farrar on June 20, 2012 at 11:18
I am listening to April Showers May Flowers CD and it's fantastic to hear saxophone music of such wonderful quality. Well done Miss Brown.
Comment by Bishopsaxz on February 22, 2012 at 14:49

Awesome!!!

Comment by Chris Warne on January 5, 2012 at 16:44

Well written and I really liked it as it was truely inspiring for all (especially young people)!

Thank you Chris.

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