Associates Conference: YolanDa Brown Special Guest
Exams are established and recognised indicators of musical progression – but in addition – and perhaps sometimes as an alternative –the freedom to feel, explore and improvise music should be central to young people’s musical journeys. How can we best encourage this? How do we create the right balance between theory and feel?
Talking about her album Love Politics War YolanDa says:
“This album is a mix of reggae, jazz and soul. We have jazz chops and chords, and the soul element is always there – it gives me a softer side, yet doesn’t make me smooth-jazz – but, as we found from the tours on the first album, the biggest element that got people up and dancing was the reggae rhythms. Combining the three together for me feels like the right place to sit: it’s my home.”
Love Politics War is not just a soul track followed by a jazz track, followed by a reggae tune. Nearly always it’s about combining the three styles into one sumptuous whole, reflecting YolanDa’s take on music: that it’s mainly about feel, often over theory and textbook.
“It goes back to my early days, this thing about ‘feel’,” she says. “Back even when I was learning drums, I remember my teacher telling me, ‘Forget about reading for a minute – just play it how you feel it’. She said, ‘Go and research Dame Evelyn Glennie, she’s a percussionist who is deaf’. That was amazing – at first it made no sense to me – but she speaks about feeling the music instead of hearing it. And it had an effect on my sax playing, because I always wanted to feel what I’m playing. I didn’t want lessons and theory: I went rogue and taught myself.”
YolanDa Brown is an award-winning musician, broadcaster and philanthropist. Her Debut Album, “April Showers May Flowers” was No1 on the Jazz Charts and her sophomore album released in 2017 “Love Politics War” also went to No1 in the UK Jazz charts, and she recently released her debut children’s album under Sony Music Magic Star to rave reviews. YolanDa has toured with The Temptations, Jools Holland’s Rhythm and Blues Orchestra, Billy Ocean and collaborated with artists such as Snarky Puppy’s Bill Laurance, as well as performed on BBC’s Jools’ Annual Hootenanny, performing ‘I Put A Spell On You’ with Kelly Jones from Stereophonics and ‘Aint Too Proud To Beg’ with Rick Astley.
She works across TV and radio – as well as the award winning “YolanDa’s Band Jam for CBeebies she is currently composing music for the iconic Sesame Street and an animated series due for release in 2022. On BBC Radio 4, she co presents Loose Ends with Clive Anderson, covers for Trevor Nelson and Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio 2 and presents “YolanDa Brown on Saturday” on Jazz FM. As host of the London Philharmonic Orchestra podcast “Offstage”, YolanDa presents a 12-episode series talking to a range of musicians within the LPO about their experiences as orchestral musicians – and has hosted a wide range of BBC music programmes.